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Serving: IA

Water Rocks! has gone to the dogs (for youth outreach)

Slideshow: Iowa’s water quality and natural resource education program for elementary school students offers expanded online learning.

With a lot of new online programming options from Water Rocks!, it might be easy to overlook some of its long-standing online educational programming. Since 2010, the Adventures of the Conservation Pack has been using dogs to deliver environmental lessons to Iowa’s youth. Its series of 24 videos and accompanying workbook provide students, teachers and parents with a resource for classroom or independent learning.

Available for download or as a complete set on DVD, the Conservation Pack program has been used by teachers across Iowa to complement science learning. Water Rocks has distributed more than 1,650 DVDs and Conservation Pack workbooks to teachers across Iowa, and the videos have been viewed online nearly 40,000 times.

Each episode covers a single topic ranging from trees and water quality testing to environmental law. One of the dogs from the Conservation Pack — Jackie, Charlie or Stewy — acts as a roving reporter to interview an expert on the subject of each video segment. The videos run between 3 and 5 minutes and contain science-related lessons and vocabulary for students in grades K-5.

In Episode 1, Charlie interviews Allen Bonini of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, highlighting what the DNR does in Iowa and some of the pollution challenges facing the state. Episode 8 takes Stewy into the Iowa State University Water Quality Research Lab with scientist Leigh Ann Long to learn about testing of water samples from around the state. And in Episode 20, Jackie visits with Todd Coffelt, from Triple C Farms, to learn about raising cows.

Capturing students’ attention

“Learners of every age are captivated by the dogs in the videos, and we use that natural attraction to deliver important information and lessons,” says Ann Staudt, Water Rocks director. “Using dogs to introduce topics out in nature provides a nice springboard to get students excited about the world around us.”

The "Adventures of the Conservation Pack" workbook contains engaging, science-based, natural resources-centered worksheets to accompany the video series. For each video, the workbook includes age-appropriate worksheets for grades K-2 and grades 3-5. Water Rocks endorses and encourages the copying of workbook pages for classroom or home use.

The interviews also give students a quick peek into a broad range of career paths in environmental and ag sciences that can extend well beyond the laboratory. Interviewees include teachers, farmers, scientists and researchers, a park ranger, conservationists, and foresters.

The idea for the Conservation Dogs came about in 2010 during a team meeting. “It was sort of a joke that resonated with the team and quickly took shape as an appealing program for our youngest audience members,” Staudt says. “An important part of the program is the parallel we draw from dogs working together as a pack. Just as dogs work in packs, if we work together as a team to address conservation and the environment, we can accomplish great things.”

At-home learning

In addition to starring in the video series, the dogs are the mascots for Water Rocks. Their images and videos have been well-used across the full range of programs, such as outdoor classrooms, school assemblies and classroom visits. Since Jackie, Charlie and Stewy have now retired from show business, a new generation of conservation dogs has stepped in. Obi, Basil, Tundra and Taiga haven’t been unleashed in interviews yet, but all can be found in Water Rocks lessons and materials.

“Whether in a classroom or living room, these videos capture a student’s attention and make learning fun,” Staudt says. “When students are presented with information through a fun format or game, they learn without it feeling like a chore. Water Rocks strives to find that balance of entertainment and learning throughout our programming, and the Conservation Pack is just one example of just how well it can work.”

To learn more about the Adventures of the Conservation Pack, visit Or to explore the full range of educational programming and resources from Water Rocks, visit

Ripley is a Water Rocks educator and conservation outreach specialist.





TAGS: Conservation
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