The Water Rocks! Summit is a professional development workshop that offers training for teachers, extension educators, and naturalists. This year, the Summit will be offered as a four-week blended course, meeting every Thursday from June 17 – July 8, 2021.
During this four-week blended course, participants will—
How will the blended delivery work? What time commitment will I be expected to make?
Who can apply for the Summit? Teachers of all grade levels are welcome to participate in the Water Rocks! Summit. Our extensive classroom materials include lessons and activities for grades K-12—science centered, and integrating social studies, literature, music, and the arts. Naturalists, ISU Extension and Outreach youth staff, and other youth educators are also welcome to apply!
How much does the Summit cost? Thanks to our partners, the Water Rocks! Summit is FREE of charge for all accepted participants, and includes the following:
The only out-of-pocket expense is for one license renewal credit, if desired (read on for additional information).
What about license renewal credits? The 2021 Water Rocks! Summit will be eligible for one (1) license renewal credit. License renewal credit costs ($35) are the responsibility of participating teachers. License renewal registration information will be provided to all participants accepted into the Summit, and each teacher can decide whether or not to seek the credit.
Additional questions? Please reach out at the email address below, or call 515.294.4878, and I’ll be happy to answer any additional questions.
GOOD NEWS: Our fleet of Conservation Station trailers will be rolling again this summer! Now is the time to start thinking about spring and summer events that would be enhanced by a visit from one of our trailers. Visits from a Conservation Station trailer are available free of charge and are a great addition to county fairs, farmers markets, festivals, and other community events. Activities are being adapted to ensure that they can be delivered safely and effectively.
The Conservation Station’s online request system for spring and summer 2021 is now open and accepting requests. Submit your request by Monday, March 22 for priority consideration.
How do we request the Conservation Station at our event? Submit a request online! Please note that submitting a request does not guarantee that the Conservation Station is booked for your event. We often receive many more requests than we are able to fulfill, so get your request in by Monday, March 22 for priority consideration.
Unique guides to county parks and wildlife areas across Iowa provide families and youth with a roadmap to learning and exploration outdoors and close to home
Water Rocks! has launched its County Park Adventure Series, providing activity guides and outdoor adventure suggestions at county parks and wildlife areas throughout Iowa. Covering one park in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, the adventure series guides offer detailed information about each park including amenities and suggested age-appropriate family and youth activities to aid in exploring the natural world in each location.
During 2020, Iowa’s state parks have seen record attendance due to both the centennial celebration of Iowa State Parks and the shutdown of many recreational sites and activities. This project was intentionally focused on county parks to encourage folks to learn about and explore nature’s beauty at these lesser-known, less-visited destinations while maintaining physical distancing without the crowds seen at state parks.
“After spring school closures and a summer of isolation, many families are feeling stifled and cooped up, and as winter approaches, we are excited to help them take advantage of local outdoor destinations that can be enjoyed year-round,” said Jacqueline Comito, executive director of Water Rocks!. “Every season offers adventure and natural beauty in Iowa. Whether identifying animal tracks in the snow, hunting for the first signs of spring, or enjoying fall colors, these less-traveled parks are a great resource for all of us. With a guide to a local park in hand, visitors can explore and learn together while enjoying the outdoors – and escaping the indoors.”
Containing park-specific family friendly activities, each original activity guide offers families and youth fun ways to learn about their environment while enjoying the beauty of Iowa’s parks and recreational areas. Visit the Water Rocks! website’s County Park Adventure Series page to select a county and download an activity guide.
During the summer of 2020, the Water Rocks! summer interns imagined, created, and developed the county park adventure project. Fanning out across the state, they explored and developed unique activities for each park they visited. According to intern Riley Wilgenbusch, “While reaching all 99 counties was challenging, getting out across the state gave us all a huge opportunity to see and learn about Iowa’s different landscapes and ecosystems. And we are all very proud that the resulting series of guides are a great asset for those interested in exploring parks near and far.”
“This project came about as we responded to the sudden closures and restrictions related to COVID-19, but we are delighted with the guides and hope they can be a resource for Iowans for many years,” said Comito. “This is one of those situations where a sudden disruption to our summer plans resulted in an unexpected, yet beneficial, outcome. Our interns discovered many of Iowa’s hidden gems and we will all benefit from their adventures.”
2020 feels like a metamorphosis year on so many fronts.
As I reflect on how our Water Rocks! youth education program has adapted/ pivoted/ reinvented itself (choose your buzzword), the idea of a metamorphosis seems most appropriate. Our program is centered on teaching youth about water, soil, biodiversity, and other environmental science concepts, so viewing this transformation from a biological sciences perspective just seems like a natural fit.
Those of you that know me well know I’m a pretty simple person. But occasionally I’ll have these random deep thoughts, like:
What does a caterpillar’s transformation to a butterfly really feel like?
Does it hurt?
Is it true they actually have to eat and digest themselves to kickstart the chrysalis stage of the process?
For Water Rocks!, this time of metamorphosis has meant transforming our youth outreach program from one centered on in-person, face-to-face interactive presentations and music assemblies in schools across the state, to something suddenly and completely different. We are creatures of habit. Change is hard. (See questions above: What does the caterpillar’s transformation feel like? Does it hurt?). However, in reality, the building blocks were primed and in place for Water Rocks! to adapt, survive, and thrive …
For years now, our Water Rocks! team has been writing music, producing videos, developing enhanced learning activities for teachers, and delivering science-based content in creative, out-of-the box ways … that’s just how we do business! This is what ultimately equipped us to quickly transition our offerings to meet the unique needs of students, teachers, and parents during the rapid spread of COVID-19. Despite a global pandemic, natural resources, water quality, and environmental education are too important to just put on hold or set aside.
We are thrilled to have now developed a full “menu” of offerings with Water Rocks!, ranging from outdoor school presentations while the weather permits this fall, to a brand new, puppet show-inspired video series poised to launch later this month. Read on for a glimpse into the unique and multifaceted approaches Water Rocks! is taking to connect with students and teachers across the state, engaging them on timely natural resources topics.
Outdoor School Presentations
Equipped with tables, chairs, face coverings, hand sanitizer, wireless microphones, and a full PA system, the Water Rocks! team now loads up its Conservation Station trailer 3-4 times per week to hit the road for OUTDOOR school presentations! We’ve completely retooled our signature indoor school presentations and assemblies from the ground up to align with physical distancing standards and to ensure a safe outdoor educational experience for everyone involved. Students may learn about watersheds through humorous songs, skits, and raps, or they may discover the plight of pollinators as they compete in the Monarch Migration Madness game. K-8 students are loving the interactive and outdoor aspects of these Water Rocks! presentations—something refreshing and completely different during school days that are heavy in screen time.
Virtual School Presentations
Just as pollinators are journeying south, the Water Rocks! team will soon be migrating, too—indoors. We are excited to offer our brand new Water Rocks! Live Streaming virtual school presentations beginning November 17! Designed as a hybrid news broadcast/variety show, these presentations will originate from the ISU campus, from our “WR! news studio” set, while also providing the opportunity for students to see conservation practices out on the landscape through “field reporter”-style interviews (e.g. students will “visit” Iowa wetlands, even in the dead of winter, via video footage captured in the field during the fall months). Water Rocks! virtual school presentations will be coordinated with one teacher and classroom of K-8 students at a time to maximize opportunities for (virtual) interaction and to customize the presentation to the local geography and water quality issues.
Entertaining + Educational Videos
What do you get when Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood meets Water Rocks!? = HARMONY BROOK WATERSHED!. Launching yet this month, Harmony Brook Watershed is an original, puppet-show based video series designed to teach elementary school students all about natural resources and the environment around them, featuring characters that are all native Iowa species: Fox, Frog, Owl, and Leo (short for Lepidoptera –> swallowtail butterfly). Each 3-5 minute episode is filled with moments of laughter, learning, and appreciation of the surrounding natural world. Stay tuned to our YouTube channel so you’re ready for the debut of this new series! While you’re on our YouTube page, check out two other series that we’ve launched in recent months: WR! Out-of-the Box and WR! Unplugged—50 episodes between these two series!
Contests and Challenges
Water Rocks! is all about encouraging Iowans of all ages to get outside and experience the amazing natural resources around them. One of the fun ways we’ve done that is through a series of contests and challenges! Our Fall Colors Found Art Contest is open now through October 19—get out for a walk, collect interesting nature items (leaves, rocks, feathers, twigs, pinecones, etc.), and arrange them into an artistic masterpiece! The contest features both youth and adult categories, with prizes awarded in each group. Previous Water Rocks! challenges have included Earth Week Chalk Challenge, Earth Week Found Art, and the TREE-mendous Iowa Tree Challenge.
As this year of metamorphosis continues to unfold, stay tuned to the Water Rocks! website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on our virtual school presentations, video releases, upcoming contests, and more WR! goodness.
Participants will create works of art from natural items they find in the great outdoors. The contest is open now through October 19 and features adult and youth entry groups. For complete contest rules and to upload a photo of your artistic creation, visit waterrocks.org/fall-colors.
Online voting through the Water Rocks! Facebook page for the People’s Choice winner in each age category and consideration by a judging panel will take place October 20-22. Winners will be announced October 23!
We have lots of fabulous prizes to give away, so get outside, appreciate the beauty of nature, and create your found art masterpiece today!
Enjoy the summer weather and appreciate the trees around you during the Water Rocks! “TREE-mendous Iowa Tree Challenge”! The challenge, which will run August 3 through 17, invites Iowans to get outside and discover the trees that grow across the state by snapping pictures of themselves with as many varieties of trees as they can.
We have awesome prize packs available, based on the number of different trees you find! Prize packs will be awarded to those who successfully complete the challenge, while supplies last!
The TREE-mendous Iowa Tree Challenge is being produced in partnership with the Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa’s largest and most comprehensive environmental coalition and dedicated to education and advocacy and working together to protect and preserve Iowa’s environment.
We can’t wait to see your tree photos—be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (@waterrocksisu) to see our favorite submissions!
Water Rocks! is expanding its online portfolio of environmental and water quality education programming with the addition of two streaming video programs. Water Rocks! Unplugged is a weekly studio session featuring Water Rocks! music and associated lessons. Water Rocks! Out of the Box is a series of short natural resources lessons with at-home activities. Both programs leverage the strong science education content typically delivered through the Water Rocks! classroom visits and assemblies which have been put on hold this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The unprecedented closure of schools across Iowa led us to brainstorm some new ways to use technology and remote learning to continue delivering our natural resources and water quality content and lessons to youth around Iowa,” said Ann Staudt, Water Rocks! director. “Our enewsletter, The Monday Mix, has been well received, and these new streaming options will give teachers, parents, and kids some new options to have fun while learning—all while keeping natural resources, water quality, and the environment around us at the forefront. We are eager to provide resources and support teachers and parents who are facing incredible challenges.”
Water Rocks! Unplugged features Water Rocks! music frontman Todd Stevens, performing acoustic versions of hit songs from the Water Rocks! catalog. Each performance is accompanied by a quick lesson highlighting the key science elements related to the song. New videos will drop on Facebook and YouTube every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. CDT – beginning TODAY, April 14!
Water Rocks! Out of the Box is a series of virtual video lessons featuring student intern Emma Flemming, sharing fun, hands-on, at-home adaptations of classroom lessons and interactive activities from the Water Rocks! classroom visit program. Each lesson runs 5-10 minutes, and a new video will drop on Facebook and YouTube every Wednesday and Friday at 1 p.m. CDT – beginning TOMORROW, April 15!
Aligned with the new normal of working from home and learning from home, these video projects are being recorded and produced in the performer’s homes.
“Flexibility and innovation are watchwords right now, and Emma and Todd have both come through with creative ideas, effort and content for today’s youth,” continued Staudt. “Emma has shown great ingenuity in adapting the Water Rocks! activities for at-home use. Building on her experience visiting classrooms in our Water Resources Internship Program last summer—she’s truly driving the Out of the Box project. We are excited to launch both of these new video series.”
As Iowa schools implement online programs at all grade levels, the Water Rocks! online resources and online learning modules provide science-based content that is easy to use. All Water Rocks! programming is correlated to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) adopted by most Iowa school districts. Teacher, parent and student links to music, videos, games and educational resources are available free of charge at www.waterrocks.org
Water Rocks! has launched The Monday Mix, a new multimedia e-newsletter providing conservation and water quality education materials and activities for school-age youth who are suddenly “learning from home.”
“In these uncertain times when schools are closed and we’re all social distancing from one other, we here at Water Rocks! want to continue to make science education fun, interactive and accessible for Iowa’s students,” said Ann Staudt, Water Rocks! director. “Water Rocks! has a wealth of fun STEM and science-based educational videos, songs, games and classroom materials that are ready for use by students, teachers and parents. We encourage everyone to explore the site, sign up for The Monday Mix and have some fun learning about our state’s environment and diverse ecosystems.”
The Monday Mix is distributed via email to all subscribers each Monday. Current subscribers to the Water Rocks! newsletter will automatically receive The Monday Mix. To sign up to receive The Monday Mix, click here.
Content each week will highlight Water Rocks! music videos and fun natural resources-related activities that can easily be done at home by students in grades K-8.
Water Rocks! is widely known for its innovative conservation education programming delivered to elementary and middle schools across Iowa through a mixture of classroom visits, school assemblies and outdoor classrooms. With the uncertainty of school furloughs happening throughout Iowa, the Water Rocks! team is extending much of its library of content for individual use in homes.
“We understand the strain the sudden closure of schools is having on parents and teachers, and we are delighted to share our materials in ways that will facilitate fun learning for the whole family,” concluded Staudt.
Here’s a sample of some soil fun facts shared in last week’s edition:
The annual school visit evaluation report from Water Rocks! highlights comprehension increases among youth, outreach to new schools and underserved counties, and accolades from teachers
Water Rocks! has published its 2018-2019 School Visits Evaluation Report, detailing the impacts Water Rocks! visits had on students, teachers, and conservation education during the 2018-19 academic year. Water Rocks! teams conducted 197 school visits, 17 more than the previous year, and participated in 13 outdoor classrooms, one more than the previous year. Having identified 11 priority counties that have had limited exposure to Water Rocks!, the team redoubled efforts to connect with schools in these underserved areas – garnering success in eight of the targeted counties.
Water Rocks! is a uniquely Iowan youth conservation and water quality education program that uses a creative mix of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), music and the arts to connect with students in grades K-12 with science-based information about Iowa’s natural resources and ecosystems. Through high-energy classroom presentations, outdoor classroom programs and school assemblies, Water Rocks! energized nearly 33,000 youth during the school year.
With a keen eye on constant improvement, Water Rocks! uses several assessment tools to gather feedback from teachers and students. Among the teachers’ comments were “engaging to the entire class,” “reinforced the ecosystem unit,” and “retention of the information was amazing!” In addition, assessments before and after lessons showed improved comprehension among students for almost all programs when compared to the previous year.
“This report is a guidepost to improving how we teach these important lessons and assure we are delivering the most value in the short time we are with the students,” said Ann Staudt, Water Rocks! director. “The assessments help us identify topics that need more repetition to plant the ideas and concepts more firmly in the students’ minds. We are working with the future leaders and decision-makers for our state, and we feel our role is crucial to building awareness of conservation and water quality for future generations.”
Key findings in the report include:
Presented in 197 schools and 13 outdoor classrooms, reaching 32,800 students
Key topic comprehension levels increased 40 percentage points or more in all programs when comparing students’ pre- and post-lesson evaluations
Of teachers attending Water Rocks! assemblies, 99% would recommend the program to peers