Water Rocks is known for its innovative and creative programs to educate Iowa's youth about natural resources, conservation and what they can do to individually participate in making a difference. Despite the radical changes to how education is being done throughout the past year, Water Rocks has continued to create and launch new programs that support teachers' and parents' classroom and at-home education efforts. Water resources interns Lindsey Page and Riley Wilgenbusch, who joined the team in recent months, are helping to support these outreach efforts in uniquely challenging times.
"Lindsey and Riley have melded with the team and helped us complete new initiatives such as Simple Science and the Harmony Brook Watershed video series," says Ann Staudt, director. "Our team is constantly challenging ourselves to create, and these two have made a great contribution to that process. Their creative talents and technology experiences have helped us achieve multiple goals in the short time they've been with us."
Page has been instrumental in creating, producing and hosting Water Rocks Simple Science, a weekly series of short videos that provide students with science learning activities based on the extensive Water Rocks library of classroom content and resources.
Created as a DIY lesson, each video includes detailed instructions and a demonstration of an activity that can be completed by students at home or in the classroom. Teachers or parents can assist as needed, or offer the lessons as independent learning opportunities.
New episodes of Water Rocks Simple Science will be posted each Friday throughout the spring semester on the Water Rocks YouTube channel, enabling students to complete the activities over a weekend if desired, or for teachers to incorporate in the classroom the following week.
While working primarily with the Iowa Learning Farms program, Wilgenbusch has also assisted with Water Rocks youth education efforts. He has contributed his vocal and acting talents to Water Rocks Live Streaming classroom presentations for pre-K through second grade students.
Each session follows a variety show format that brings live action science lessons, music videos, episodes from the Harmony Brook Watershed series and other age-appropriate conservation and environmental content, into the live or virtual classroom.
Wilgenbusch has assisted in the development of the Cyclone Soil Health Sweepstakes, a team competition to engage college students in issues of conservation and soil health. He is also contributing to the development of new Extension programming that addresses rural well water issues.
Social media outreach
"Lindsey has also helped streamline and strengthen our social media engagement through creative generation of relevant and compelling content," Staudt said. "In addition, both Riley and Lindsey voice puppets in the Harmony Brook Watershed videos. We are excited to have them on the team and are delighted to have such versatile individuals to help expand what we can accomplish with both Water Rocks and Iowa Learning Farms."
Even as many schools in Iowa are reopening classrooms for in-person instruction, the probability of returning to traditional indoor classroom visits and school assemblies featuring Water Rocks educators is low for the foreseeable future.
"The range of Water Rocks programs available through online and livestreaming channels provide educators working at every grade level with content and resources to engage and enrich students," continued Staudt. "We are increasingly energized by teacher and student feedback, and are committed to continuing to innovate and offer additional program options. "We also look forward to resuming seasonal outdoor classroom presentations in mid-April, or as soon as weather conditions allow."
Teachers or parents looking for information about Water Rocks can learn more at waterrocks.org, or by following the links in the table accompanying this article.
Ripley is an Iowa Learning Farms conservation outreach specialist.