Over the two days of the Water Rocks! Summit, one message prevailed: educating today’s youth about the importance of water will give them the knowledge to influence change when they become adult members of their communities.
All Summit participants completed a pre-event and post-event self-evaluation, indicating their knowledge and/or comfort related to different environmental topics and teaching these concepts. Teachers came in not having an extensive background knowledge of water quality, soil health, and Iowa’s ecosystems, with an average pre-assessment score of 54/100 (n=24). After participating in the Summit, teachers’ proficiency and understanding of water quality, soil, health, and environmental issues saw substantial improvement, with an average post-assessment score of 80/100 (n=24).
For those teacher participants who enrolled with Heartland AEA to obtain one license renewal credit, they were required to submit a one-page reflection about their experience at the Water Rocks! Summit. Excerpts from these reflections are included below:
Wow! What an awesome two days! I enjoyed the Summit but more importantly I learned a lot! I really appreciated the format. I liked that you educated us about each topic at what I would call an introductory level for adults, and then taught us ways to teach our children. It was a great balance of information to develop my own personal background knowledge and information to teach and inspire children.
On a personal note my own daughter who was one of our student representatives came home and got online to dig deeper into your topics. I learned a lot but as a mother and a teacher when you see kids take their own initiative to learn more you have truly done your job. So hats off to you and your staff you did a great job teaching us and inspiring us to learn more!
I believe in your premise that we need to let the science do the talking in our classrooms in order to get the message of soil and water conservation to our students. Teachers, like me, in the elementary classrooms have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to teach our students that the environmental issue of today cannot be ignored, and each one of us must do something to change the course we are on. Our planet cannot sustain the direction we are going, and I do believe that educating our young people is the way to make change happen.
I especially liked how this summit was focused on Iowa. Many of my students live on farms and encounter these issues daily. It is good to educate them on Iowa conservation issues and alternatives to use on their own farming situations. I really enjoyed the Field Tour of the agricultural and urban conservation sites.
The incredible wealth of resources provided in the Water Rocks! kit allows me to provide a competitive advantage to my students when learning about water, soil, biodiversity, and conservation. Budget constraints often limit the opportunities I am able to provide for all of my students, but I feel that I have a number of new tools at my disposal now, packaged in neatly labeled containers. From the Biodiversity Jenga game to the musical CDs, I am eager to share my Water Rocks! treasures.
The materials presented and given to us during the Water Rocks Summit are exactly the kind of things I am looking for. They connect to all the different learning styles. Many kids are visual learners. The activity we did selecting the different pollutants to put in our clean water is perfect. Along with the videos that were shown in class would help this type of learner grasp a better understanding of what the main concept being taught is. The games are for those students that like the competition and want their team to win. The games, including the hopscotch migration is perfect for the student that needs to move. They can get the wiggles out and learn at the same time.
The quality of the materials is so impressive. Everything demonstrated and given to us is beautifully produced and very appealing to the students.
On a personal level, it provided me with a deeper understanding of “data” side of topics like soil conservation, global warming, prairie restoration, water recycling, and others. Having grown up on a farm and working in a rural community my whole life, I found out how little I really knew and how complicated some of these topics really are. It has sparked my interest. Yesterday as I was driving in the rain, I looked at the farm and in a whole new light that included a whole set of questions popping into my head.
I really enjoyed the interactiveness of the class. I do not believe in “sit and get”. The time just flew by. The speakers were all very interesting and passionate about what they do. They were so approachable and made me feel that it was important to be there. That was awesome and it created an emotional response in my thinking. As far as having a great experience, all I can say is that Water Rocks!
The first step to improving our surroundings is to be aware of the dynamics involved. That is what this workshop provided for me - an increased awareness. The two days were filled with information and ideas that begged reflection and action. For example, just mentioning ways we can personally help some of the problems presented caused me to consider my own habits.
… The workshop opened my eyes to pay attention to my surroundings and existing conditions. Driving around on the Field Tour reminded my how beautiful our land is (especially in Iowa). And even driving home, my colleagues and I pointed out different wetlands that we saw. Before I would take them for granted as a beautiful site, now I have a better insight as to their purpose and just what all might be taking place inside them - how vital they are to many species.
The quality of the materials kit is amazing! I brought the kit home and let my own two children explore. They were able to do many of the activities and discuss topics easily even though one is in elementary and the other a high school senior. All physical materials are made to last and provide a great launching point to activities/discussion. Bright colors, graphics, web-based design/games, music videos, songs, posters, and games are additions to the classroom that will grab learners in a unique way.
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This cooperative project has been funded in part through the Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Partners of Water Rocks! include Iowa Department of Natural Resources (United States Environmental Protection Agency), Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Water Center, Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and personal gifts of support.