Monday, September 01, 2014

The Very Last Passenger Pigeon

There will always be pigeons in books and museums, but these are effigies and images, dead to all hardships and all delights. They know no urge of the seasons, they feel no kiss of sun, no lash of wind and weather." ldo Leopold

Today marks the centenary of the very last passenger pigeon, Martha, and her death at the Cincinnati Zoo. The species went extinct due to man’s over-exploitation, and the skies remain forever void of the billions of birds that once flew freely. This extinction helped spark the creation of conservation laws that curtail and regulate the type of hunting that caused their demise.

Species extinction is analogous to a machine losing pieces. The machine can keep running for a while, even if it is missing a bolt, washer, or other seemingly nonessential part. But if parts keep falling off, how long can it go on functioning?

That is what is happening on earth. Small parts of our working ecosystems are being lost. How long can all the systems that support life continue to operate, while losing pieces? This analogy can also be used to describe the effects when an endangered species is able to recover. If we save all the pieces, we can make the machine work again.

Several factors have contributed to successes with endangered species. Habitat preservation and reconstruction are essential. Changes in human behaviors and attitudes toward these species often are necessary for successful reintroductions. Laws now protect deer, turkey, geese, and beaver. They cannot be harvested during their breeding seasons and limits are set on the numbers taken during hunting and trapping seasons. Large predators are no longer thought of as vermin.

Classroom Connections

Read “On A Monument To A Pigeon” from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac . He writes of the extinct passenger pigeon. This essay conveys a sense of the importance of trying to save endangered species. It may inspire students to write their own essays on how they would feel if a species now endangered became extinct. Endangered means there’s still time, extinct is forever.

Have students research species of wildlife extirpated from Iowa. Which ones have returned or been reintroduced?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FAll STEM-based Natural Resources Professional Development

Exploring Iowa’s Natural Resources On-line Course (K-12 Educators)
September 8 – December 21, 2014

“This course has provided me with information and resources to make lessons more relevant and engaging. The focus on inquiry, sense of place, and many other important aspects of teaching have been beneficial in terms of planning lessons and remembering to keep students and student activities at the core of what I do. It’s not just about the content and this course helped rejuvenate my interest in making lessons more student centered.”
Learn how to utilize local natural resources as unifying themes to implement a STEM-based approach in your curriculum. You will work in small groups and individually to create a network of contacts and resources to teach natural resource concepts. Group and individual assignments will build on each other throughout the course. 
Each week a new course module focusing on a specific environmental education topic, strategy or skill will be available (time requirement 4-5 hours per week). You should be comfortable navigating web pages, have access to internet and a computer on a daily basis, and possess basic computer skills.

Registration deadline is August 29, 2014 
you must register electronically. Registration fee$225 (includes course materials and 3 license renewal credits). This course is being offered by AEA PD Online, a joint initiative by all of Iowa's Area Education Agencies. This course therefore uses AEA PD Online's alternative fee schedule for license renewal credit. Transcripts and credit will be issued by AEA PD Online instead of Heartland AEA.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wildlife is Everywhere!

Wildlife is everywhere- on land, in soil, in water, and in the air. Wildlife scientists study wildlife to learn how they live and interact with the environment. These scientists may focus on one wildlife species or a group of species during their studies. They record observations made with their senses and other tools.


Help your kids become wildlife scientists 

Lead our students on a walk in the neighborhood around your school or building or a nearby park to look for wildlife. Tell students that they are using their eyes and ears to watch and listen for any signs of animal life (animal movement, calls, tracks, tunnels, droppings, etc.). Have students record their observations.
  • Where do you see wild animals?
  • What are the animals doing?
  • How do the animals react?
  • What signs of animals do you see?

Field biologists often get down on their hands and knees to "mimic" the tracks they see to help identify the animal and understand what it was doing at that particular moment. Have your students imitate the movements of wildlife.
  • Raccoon - students get on their hands and knees and move from one spot to another, investigating the path they take
  • Deer - students gather as a group, each looking in a different direction; students walk away then run and jump
  • Insect - pairs of students work together to move all the "legs" at the proper time
  • Bobcat - students get on their hands and knees and slowly move one leg and arm at a time as they stay as close to the ground as possible

Encourage students to pretend they are trying to observe wildlife in different habitats like wildlife scientists do.
  • Crawl through a small cave to observe a bat
  • Wade through a marsh to get closer to a beaver’s dam
  • Hike through woods thick with trees and vines looking for a woodpecker 

Check out these links for more information about wildlife scientists.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks: State Wildlife Biologist - http://fwp.mt.gov/education/videoLibrary/outdoorReports/video_0102.html
PBS Kids - Real Scientists: Wildlife Biologist - http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/scientists/scientist57.html
Missouri Department of Conservation - Conservation Career: Wildlife Biologist - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0fEYXrHBbY

Monday, August 18, 2014

Leading Authentic Place-based Student Investigations: Water (6-12 Educators)
September 15 - December 14, 2014
"I have gained so much from this class. ...what the others in this class have shared shows me ... I can adapt all things to meet my students’ needs along with my own, the schools, and the district’s needs. I have learned that I need to allow students [to] question more in science and encourage them to explore to discover solutions for problems they face. Letting go a little and letting their questions lead the class in inquiry projects is not as scary as I originally thought. Accepting their thoughts and ideas but directing them when they need guidance is a wonderful way to learn together." 

Engage your students in real scientific research of a local water issue while you improve your own content knowledge and pedagogy. With your students, you will develop and conduct a place-based water student investigation unit (or enhance a current unit).

Each week a new course module focusing on a different topic related to the 5 Essential Features of Inquiry, place-plased learning and Iowa water issues will become available (time requirement 4-5 hours per week). You should be comfortable navigating web pages, have access to internet and a computer on a daily basis, and possess basic computer skills.

Registration deadline is September 5, 2014 -
you must register electronically. Registration fee: $150 (includes materials and 2 license renewal credits). This course is being offered by AEA PD Online, a joint initiative by all of Iowa's Area Education Agencies. This course therefore uses AEA PD Online's alternative fee schedule for license renewal credit. Transcripts and credit will be issued by AEA PD Online instead of Heartland AEA.


Friday, August 15, 2014

GreenWorks! Grant

  • Would you like your class to be part of the climate solution and have an idea for a school project that can help address climate change?
  • Do you want to start a project that reduces your carbon footprint and/or educates other students or community about climate change?
  • Want to start a recycling program, or energy and water conservation project for your students?
  • Need funds to implement your project?
More information and an application for grants amounting to $1,000 is available at https://www.plt.org/apply-for-greenworks-environmental-education-grant. The deadline is September 30, 2014. Make sure you have registered HERE for ClimateChangeLIVE.

• Applicants must have attended a PLT workshop and participated in at least one ClimateChangeLIVE webinar or event.
• The proposed project must involve service-learning.
• The proposed project must demonstrate student voice.
• The proposed project must involve at least one community partner.
• The proposed project must secure at least 50% matched funds (in-kind acceptable).


For a detailed guidebook on GreenWorks! Grants, CLICK HERE.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Exploring Iowa’s Natural Resources On-line Course (K-12 Educators)
September 8 – December 21, 2014
“This course has provided me with information and resources to make lessons more relevant and engaging. The focus on inquiry, sense of place, and many other important aspects of teaching have been beneficial in terms of planning lessons and remembering to keep students and student activities at the core of what I do. It’s not just about the content and this course helped rejuvenate my interest in making lessons more student centered.”


Learn how to
utilize local natural resources as unifying themes to implement a STEM-based approach in your curriculum. You will work in small groups and individually to create a network of contacts and resources to teach natural resource concepts. Group and individual assignments will build on each other throughout the course.

Each week a new course module focusing on a specific environmental education topic, strategy or skill will be available (time requirement 4-5 hours per week). You should be comfortable navigating web pages, have access to internet and a computer on a daily basis, and possess basic computer skills.

Registration deadline is August 29, 2014 -
you must register electronically. Registration fee: $225 (includes course materials and 3 license renewal credits). This course is being offered by AEA PD Online, a joint initiative by all of Iowa's Area Education Agencies. This course therefore uses AEA PD Online's alternative fee schedule for license renewal credit. Transcripts and credit will be issued by AEA PD Online instead of Heartland AEA.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Things to do in your backyard this week!

Build a Fort
Build your own outdoor hideout!

Supplies
Large sticks
Old sheets or blankets
String or rope
Imagination

How-to
The sky is the limit! Create a fort by leaning your sticks against an existing structure, such as a tree or play set, or create a fort by leaning the sticks together like a teepee. Use ropes or string to help hold sheets in place. Use an old blanket as the base.  Make it your own! A backyard fort is a great place to hide while you observe birds, write in your nature journal, read a book, or just sit and think!

Make Rain Music
We have been getting our fair share of rain across Iowa this year! Celebrate and put the rain to use by making your own rain music!

Supplies
Rain (supplied by Mother Nature)
Metal pots and pans

How-to
The next time it rains (should be soon!) set up metal pots and pans on a deck or your yard where they will get rained on. Listen to the rain music!

Make a Bug “Movie”
Set up a white sheet and a light after dark and watch backyard bugs gather to star in your after-hours “movie”!

Supplies
White sheet, pillow case, or large white paper or cardboard
Clothes pins or other way to hang sheet/paper
Flashlight or lantern
Insect repellant
Paper, sketchbook, camera or way to record your observations

How-to
Hang your sheet outside in your backyard at a height that everyone can easily see it (so about head/shoulders height of the smallest participant). Hanging it on a clothesline, on a deck etc are good ideas.

Set your light source (flashlight, lantern, or even old lamp with the shade removed) near your sheet. Turn off other light sources (such as a yard or deck light).

Wait for insects to show up! Observe, count, record, and enjoy the “night life”!

Dig a Pitfall Trap
Build a simple pitfall trap to learn about small creatures that live in your yard!

Supplies
Small container with steep sides (such as an old yogurt container)
Trowel or small shovel
Several small rocks
One larger rock
Flat piece of wood
Vegetable or fruit scraps

How-to
Choose a spot in your yard to dig your trap. The soil needs to be soft enough so that you can dig down several inches.

Dig a hole the size and depth of your container. Place container in hole and fill in around it. You want the top of the container to be level with the ground.

Add the vegetable and/or fruit scraps.

Place four small rocks around the trap and cover with the flat piece of wood.  Place the larger rock on top to hold it in place. There should be about a one inch gap between the ground and the wood.

Leave the trap overnight. In the morning check your trap to see what critters you have found! Look carefully, they may be hiding. After you have identified and observed your critters let them go somewhere safe (such as under a bush).

Make a Nature Bracelet
Explore your yard and make a nature bracelet with the things you find!

Supplies
Masking tape (or similar tape)

How-to
Tear a piece of tape to wrap around your wrist, make it big enough so it can slip on and off.  Wrap the tape into a bracelet keeping the sticky side out. While wearing your bracelet explore your yard and decorate your bracelet with tiny treasures you find such as flower petals, small leaves, seeds, etc. Create your own beautiful masterpiece!

Make a Nature Mobile
Make a mobile from nature objects you find in your yard!

Supplies
Two sticks
Yarn or string
Nature objects such as flowers, feathers, pine cones, acorns etc.

How-to
Gather items from your yard that you would like on your mobile.

Tie the two sticks into an X. Tie the objects onto your X and viola! Hang your mobile where you can enjoy your nature objects!