Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Southwest Iowa Educator Tests the Waters with DNR through Real World Externships

Mary Carlson is a science teacher at Red Oak Schools in Red Oak, Iowa. Mary completed her Real World Externship with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) team in Lewis, Iowa.

Mary was immediately accepted as a full member of the team. They included her in every project they undertook this summer. Carlson said her experience was amazing and varied. As a member of the team she helped improve the water quality of our lakes and rivers by working with vegetation, which included starting a lily bed.
She helped determine the existing water quality by testing fish. Mary could be found netting fish one day or shocking them with electricity the next. After catching the fish the mercury levels are tested to ensure the quality of the water meets the DNR’s standards. Data collection is a large part of the DNR’s job and Mary helped not only with the collection but also with data organization.
As a teacher, Mary plans to use her new knowledge to engage her students in more outdoor activities. Her classes will be engaged in a water quality day with her local DNR representative. She also plans on having her students prepare a presentation for the DNR based on the question, “would you eat that?” when presented with a fish dinner. This will allow the students to get an expert’s feedback on their research. The students will also get to ask questions, find out what the DNR employees do and the schooling that is needed to get a job with the DNR. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fall Fitness Day

Help your students stay active this school year participating in the annual Live Healthy Iowa Kids Fall Fitness Day – register today. Live Healthy Iowa Kids will award 25 - $100 mini-grants to support Fall Fitness Day activities at Iowa schools. Applications due September 12!

The activity options are endless for this fun day - check out these fun nature games that will get your students up and moving while learning about nature and wildlife.

Deer Tag
Select 2-4 students to be hunters. The remaining students are deer in a forest. Hunters are positioned across the play area. Deer start at one end of the “forest” and try to get to the other side without being tagged by a hunter. As deer are tagged, they become hunters. As an extra challenge, include restrictions on how the hunters can tag the deer (e.g. right hand only, one hand behind their back, hopping on one foot). 

For older students, partition the play area in fourths or halves. Limit the number of hunters allowed in each area.

Migration Maze
Students are migratory birds traveling between nesting habitats and wintering grounds. Divide the playing area into three areas: one end - nesting habitat; middle - Iowa stopover (safe zone); other end - wintering grounds.

Place 1 carpet square per 2 students throughout the Iowa stopover (middle area). Students start in the nesting habitat and “fly” (flap their arms) like birds as they race to the Iowa stopover. In the stopover area, they must have at least one foot on the carpet square; only 2 students can be on each carpet square. Students who are left without a carpet square are out and must wait on the sidelines. Students then “fly” to the wintering grounds.

Remove a carpet space from the Iowa stopover. Students fly back through the Iowa stopover on their way to the nesting habitat. Repeat rounds (flying from nesting habitat to Iowa stopover to wintering grounds and back). Remove a carpet square every time the students leave the Iowa stopover.

Leap Frog
Mark off two parallel lines (using chalk, masking tape, or rope) two to three feet apart to create a stream.  For large groups, create several streams to keep all students active.

Students line up on both sides of the stream, facing each other (towards the middle). Outside of the lines are the “banks of the stream” and the middle is “in the stream.” The leader will call out one of two commands: “in the stream” or “on the bank.”

Students must leap like frogs according to the command. If a player follows the wrong command, they must sit out. The leader can repeat the command “in the stream” while players are in the stream and if any student moves, they are out of the game. To add further challenge, the leader can give false commands like the “in the lake” or “in the ocean.” Students should only move to the commands “in the stream” or “on the bank.”

Pheasant Hunt
Students form a line alternately facing in opposite directions in a squatting position. The first student in line is the "pheasant" and may run around the line in either direction. The last student is the "fox." The fox must run around the line in the same direction he/she starts, trying to catch the “pheasant.” The "fox" can step into line behind a player, tap his/her shoulder, and change places with him/her. When the "pheasant" is caught, the "fox" becomes the "pheasant" and the tagged "pheasant" gets in line opposite from the "fox" starting end. A new "fox" starts the chase anew.

Metamorphosis Relay
Students are butterflies racing through their various life stages. Divide students into two teams. Students begin the race in a curled up position to represent an egg. 

Station 1 – the caterpillar: students wiggle through a maze, searching for food
Station 2 – the chrysalis: students climb into a burlap sack and race to the next station
Station 3 – the adult caterpillar: students grab a colorful scarf and “flies” to the finish line

How Many Coyotes Can Live in this Forest?
Students are coyotes collecting food to survive. For a group of 25 – 30 coyotes, spread 25 each of 4 colors (green, blue, yellow, red) of rubber bands throughout the playing area. Each color of rubber band represents a different food in the coyote’s diet (green – plants; blue – cottontail rabbits; yellow – mice; red – deer).

Place a plastic bag at the start line for each student. Students must gallop through the play area, pick up one colored rubber band, gallop back to the start line, put the rubber band in their plastic bag, and gallop back to collect more food. Students can pick up only one rubber band at a time.

Continue until all the rubber bands have been collected. Have each student count how many of each color rubber band they collected in their bags. In order to survive, each coyote needs to have 7 green rubber bands, 7 blue rubber bands, 6 yellow rubber bands, and 2 red rubber bands.

Plant a Tree Relay
Students race to complete the task of planting a tree.

Station 1 – dig the hole: students put on a straw hat and perform 5 squats
Station 2 – plant the tree: students put on a pair of work gloves and perform 5 jumping jacks
Station 3 – move mulch: students put a small trash can on a scooter and push it to the next station; if the trash can falls off, they must go back and try again

Station 4 – water the tree: students pick up a jumping rope (represents water hose) and must jump rope to the finish line

Friday, September 05, 2014

Fungus Among Us

All the wet weather this August is making conditions perfect for fungus! These pictures feature Xylaria polymorpha which is commonly known as Dead Man's Fingers. What a fun name and perfect if anyone is starting to get into the Halloween spirit a little bit early! 

The scientific name helps us understand a little more about the fungus. "Xylaria" means "to grow on wood" and "polymorpha" means "many shapes". Dead Man's Fingers is often found growing at the base of dead or dying trees in deciduous forests. It comes in many shapes and sizes but always bears a little bit of a resemblance to fingers or hands. 

Fungus is an important part of the life cycle of a tree. When a tree is at the end of its life, fungus begins to grow as it digests parts of the wood and aids in decomposition.

For more information about researching and collecting fungi common in Iowa, check out the Is There A Fungus Among Us? activity from the Springbrook Education Center.

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.