By Ann Staudt
It’s always exciting to see the Water Rocks! messages and lessons create a ripple effect to reach well beyond the direct activities of our small Water Rocks team.
This is what is happening in Carroll County in western Iowa under the guidance and creative leadership of Anjanette Treadway, human services program coordinator in the Carroll County Extension office.
Treadway is responsible for supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for kindergarten through third grade in county schools. She is also the conservation education champion for all students up through the sixth grade. Her work includes planning and delivering classroom education, supporting teachers with teaching resources, and producing field days and other educational events for students countywide.
Treadway learned about Water Rocks from a colleague who had attended an ag professional development program at Iowa State University in 2015. “My co-worker brought me some of the materials from the program and encouraged me to get involved with Water Rocks to learn more,” she says. “I’m glad I did. Water Rocks provides an expansive set of activities and content applicable for all elementary and middle-school grades.”
Helping students learn about environment
Two major events Treadway produces in Carroll schools are a field day for third-graders and an environmental field day for sixth-graders. After attending her first Water Rocks summit workshop, she saw an immediate fit for both events.
“The Water Rocks team has done an excellent job of aligning programming and educational resources with the Next Generation Science Standards and statewide curriculum requirements for STEM advancement,” she says. “And the materials provided in the workshops and summits are ready to use in the classroom — something that’s very helpful for teachers who are time-stressed and in need of creative and innovative ways to engage students. The third-grade science curriculum is all about conservation, and the Water Rocks program fits squarely in that field.”
The third-grade conservation field day has become Water Rocks! Day, involving hands-on outdoor activities and games, as well as participation from key specialists and teachers. The next Water Rocks! Day will be in May.
Two weeks before Water Rocks! Day, Anjanette visits the classrooms and provides introduction to the conservation lessons. Using music videos and songbooks from Water Rocks brings the conservation messages to light and plants some seeds with the students. “The students and teachers get very excited about the music and lessons from Water Rocks,” she notes. “It’s fun for the kids, and I’m not sure they even realize they’re learning. For teachers, they enjoy the activities and love to see the kids engaged, but they also see the connections to the core curriculum requirements they strive to deliver every day. One teacher loved the musical element enough to provide copies to the school’s music teacher to suggest they explore using it in the music classroom as well.”
Lessons beyond classroom
The introductory lessons get students up and moving. Students are outside, running, getting dirty, investigating such things as where water will run off from the playground and other tangible lessons that tie into the classroom instruction.
When Water Rocks! Day arrives, the activity is nonstop. Anjanette sets up many of the fun Water Rocks activities, including Biodiversity Jenga, Creature Cache, Habitat Hopscotch, Wetlands Bingo and the Poo Relay. The Water Rocks team presents its Watershed module, and other specialists present related material. In addition, the students participate in nature walks to extend the lessons beyond the classroom to incorporate their own observations.
“Of course, I love to hear the students say, ‘This was the best day ever!’ after the outdoor event, but seeing the teachers get re-energized with the lessons and materials is equally rewarding,” Treadway says.
For the sixth-grade Environmental Field Day, the lessons are more intensive, incorporating water quality topics as well as the core conservation message, and involve guest presenters. At a recent event, presenters included the naturalist from the Carroll County Conservation District; a speaker from Saving Our Avian Resources, a raptor rehabilitation center; the Water Rocks team from ISU; and teachers, who were delighted to get a chance to step out of the classroom and teach in a different style.
Program with live music, skits
The 2017-18 school year’s Environmental Field Day also included a Water Rocks assembly with live music and skits. “The field day started with different presentations and lessons, leading to the capstone of the day, a “rock concert.” Of course, it’s not all rock music, but the atmosphere among the performers, kids and teachers sure made it feel that way,” Treadway says.
She also uses the Water Rocks programming and materials out of the classroom. Last summer, Treadway coordinated a six-hour day camp open to all fourth- through sixth-grade students in Carroll County. She anticipates continuing this in future summers to provide education and outreach to students regarding the importance of environmental awareness and conservation.
In summing up her thoughts about Water Rock! and the activities, games, references and classroom materials, Treadway concludes, “I use it all! Teachers are continually looking for new and better ways to deliver curriculum content, and the materials from Water Rocks are well-suited to help.
“While not all components fit every grade, there is a definite contribution for each. I’ve been delighted with my experience over the past three years and am looking forward to what else I might be able to do together with Water Rocks to provide conservation awareness and education for our next generation.”
To learn more about Water Rocks, visit waterrocks.org.
Staudt is Water Rocks director and manager and content specialist for Iowa Learning Farms.