Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Spring Trees For Kids Grant Applications

Trees For Kids applications are available online for schools and communities to involve youth in planting trees on school grounds and other public property.  

In 2014, Trees For Kids Grants were awarded to 40 schools and communities which planted more than 1,600 landscape trees, and involved over 5,200 youth. 

Trees For Kids grants pay up to $5,000 for landscape trees and mulch for schools and other public areas.  Trees may be planted in either spring or fall.  The deadline for submitting a spring application is March 2, 2015.

Each planting project is required to have an educational component with the youth, and Project Learning Tree training is also provided to educators to create lesson plans and utilize curriculum with the planted trees.

Trees planted around schools and in neighborhoods have been shown to give youth increased levels of concentration, lower levels of aggression, lower levels of obesity, and fewer symptoms of ADHD. Communities are made more livable by having a healthy, diverse tree canopy. 

The Trees for Kids and Trees for Teens grant program is funded by Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau, MidAmerican Energy, Black Hills Energy, Alliant Energy, Iowa Bankers Association, Trees Forever, Iowa Tree Farm Committee, and the Iowa Woodland Owners Association.


For information about how to apply for a spring Trees For Kids grant, contact the grant coordinator at laura.wagner@dnr.iowa.gov, 515/281-6749. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

STEM Connections to Real Community Environmental Solutions

ICEC Winter Workshop 2015
February 6-7, 2015
Springbrook Conservation Education Center (2473 160th Road Guthrie Center, IA 50115)
Registration - Register By 2/3/2015 (Late Fee will be applied after 1/30/2015)

Learn how you can involve your students in real world conservation projects in your community and engage your students in STEM opportunities. You will partner with science experts (county naturalists, AEA Science Consultants, Natural Resource Conservation Service-NRCS, Department of Natural Resources-DNR and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship-IDALS) working in your AEA to discuss potential new project based learning opportunities. We will clarify our mutual goals and identify resources that can be used to support these projects.

For teachers taking this for re-certification or graduate credit, *15 contact hours and pre-registration required at AEApd online. Heartland Activity #:DR395999991501. Contact Peggy Christensen at pchristensen@heartlandaea.org or (515)270-0405 for more information .

The REAP Conservation Education Program has provided funding to reduce the registration and meal costs ($135.00) for everyone attending to $60. Participants will be responsible for their own lodging (dorms $20.00 or nearby hotels) and transportation expenses.  There are a limited number of $100 scholarships per AEA to be used for substitute, mileage and registration costs.


For more information contact: IowaEE@outlook.com or go to www.IowaEE.org.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Winter Wildlife

Hibernation is one of many adaptations to the cold and decreased food supplies of Iowa winters. Most mammals, including people, tend to slow down a little during the winter. True hibernators actually curl into a tight ball and reduce to extremely low levels their heart and breathing rates, body temperature, and metabolism. They need less food to survive. Bats which eat insects have virtually nothing available to eat so they are forced to hibernate all winter. Other hibernators include woodchucks, ground squirrels, jumping mice, and a few other rodents. There are a number of mammals such as badgers, raccoons, chipmunks, and skunks which do not truly hibernate. They do, however, reduce their need for food by sleeping deeply for periods extending from a few days to two weeks.

As winter arrives in Iowa, many wild animals depart or hibernate. Birds which feed on non-dormant insects and worms or need open water migrate as the food disappears and the water freezes. But many birds, especially those that feed on seeds or dormant insects, remain in Iowa. Covered with great feathery insulation and equipped with a high metabolism that burns like a small furnace, these species are able to endure Iowa’s sometimes brutal winters. They exist wherever there is accessible food, adequate shelter, and a ready source of water. Where these requirements are met, birds are often the most visible and animated spectacles of winter.

Have students create a news cast in which they pretend to interview a just emerged hibernator. In a written script or in an audio recording, they can ask questions about the animals’ winter experiences and its plans for the coming warm weather.

Animal Antifreeze

Materials:1 film canister with a lid for each participant; thermos (1 quart) of liquid knox gelatin (will be enough for 20 participants); suitable habitat

  1. Explain that a hibernating animal (chipmunk) or winter sleeper (bear) must select a sleeping spot that will provide protection from the winter cold. If the temperature of the sleeping spot falls too low, the sleeping animal may freeze to death.
  2. Each participant is given an “animal”(a film canister), ask them to pop the head off (the lid) and fill the animal with “blood” (liquid knox gelatin from the thermos).
  3. The participants job is to find a suitable shelter – sleeping spot that will protect them from freezing over the winter months. Explain that burrowing and building with nonliving materials is permitted. Define the boundaries before sending the group out. Give the participants five minutes to select sleeping spots for their animals.
  4. The number one rule of this activity is not to lose their animal – they must remember where they put their animal.
  5. After all “animals” have found their resting spot…lead the group on a winter hike.
  6. Winter hike topics too include: good over wintering habitat for the animals; hibernation/migration; animal food (acorns, insects, plants/twigs); animal tracks in the snow
  7. After a 40 to 45 minute hike return to the spot where the “animals” were hidden.
  8. Send the participants out to retrieve their animals.
  9. Have them “pop” the head (the lid) off of their animals and see whose animal survived and who froze (solid gelatin).
  10. Have the survivors explain where and what they did to help keep their animals from freezing. Lead a group discussion on how more animals could have survived. Or other items that would have been helpful, i.e. an animal fur to wrap around the container, put in area away from the wind, hide deeper in a log or hole in a tree, etc… some individuals may have decided just to carry their animal during the hike. These are all good “adaptation” strategies for a group discussion. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

America’s State Parks First Day Hikes

Des Moines – Iowa State Parks will sponsor free, guided hikes in five state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative in all 50 states. 

America’s State Parks First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on January 1 at a state park close to home. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family. 

“We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks.  First Day Hikes are a great way to cure cabin fever and burn off those extra holiday calories by starting off the New Year with an invigorating walk or hike in one of our beautiful state parks,” said Todd Coffelt, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau.  

Priscilla Geigis, president of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), said last year, state parks across the country hosted nearly 28,000 people who hiked 68,811 miles as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes. “Think of it as the start of a new and healthy lifestyle, for the whole family. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, join us at one of America’s State Parks on New Year’s Day,” Geigis said.

Iowa’s state parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer an opportunity to explore the unique natural and cultural treasures close to home. 

“Studies have proven that getting outdoors is one good way to relax and recharge the body, mind and spirit,” stated Lewis Ledford, NASPD’s executive director.  “We hope that hiking along a trail in a state park will become part of an individual’s or family’s regular exercise routine.”

First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass.  The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks.  Last year marked the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes, which average one to two miles or longer depending on the state park.  Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s State Parks website.  Visit www.naspd.org to find a First Day Hike nearest you.

In Iowa, hikes will be offered at the following locations and times:
  • Bellevue State Park, Jackson County – 1 p.m. – meet at South Bluff Nature Center
  • Brushy Creek State Recreation Area, Webster County – 1 p.m. – meet at Prairie Resource Center
  • Mines of Spain State Recreation Area, Dubuque County – 1 p.m. – meet at EB Lyons Nature Center
  • Walnut Woods State Park, Polk County – 9 a.m. – meet at Walnut Woods Lodge
  • Waubonsie State Park, Fremont County – 1 p.m. – meet at park office


For more information about the hikes, go to the events calendar on the DNR website.

America's State Parks is committed to promoting outdoor recreation in state parks as a way to address obesity, especially among children.  Getting kids outside and unplugged from video games and other electronic media creates a unique connection with nature that promotes physical and mental well-being and encourages creativity and stewardship of our shared resources.


Media Contact: Todd Coffelt, Chief, State Parks Bureau, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-725-8485.        

Monday, December 15, 2014

115th Christmas Bird Count - Gathering Information for Bird Conservation



The 115th Christmas Bird Count will be conducted from Sunday, December 14, 2014 through Monday, January 5, 2015. This longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, provides critical data on population trends. The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

If you would like to participate, check out the searchable map to find a counting "circle" near you. Below is information about the Jamaica Circle event at the Springbrook Conservation Education Center.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count (Jamaica Circle)
Thursday, December 18, 2014

Early morning owling and birding on your own/join us if you wish

7:00 – 7:30 am - Meet at the Springbrook Conservation Education Center (north of Guthrie Center) to organize parties; optional for those with pre-arranged areas.

12:00 pm - Compare notes and have lunch at Just Ethel’s in Yale. Those who wish to continue will decide areas to cover.

5:00 pm - Return to Springbrook Conservation Education Center for compilation and Chili (You may phone or email results if you prefer.)

If you have questions, please contact: Anne Riordan; work: 641-747-8383 ext 10; cell: 641-431-1455; Anne.riordan@dnr.iowa.gov

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Upcoming PLT/Trees for Kids Training

Implementing the Iowa Core Through Site-based Projects
January 23, 2015
8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Lunch provided
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden (909 Robert D Ray Drive, Des Moines)

Iowa Project Learning Tree is teaming with Trees for Kids and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden to conduct workshops to help educators learn how to develop a school site outdoor project to implement a STEM based approach to your curriculum. We will introduce a variety of teaching methods and materials (including Project Learning Tree)that can be used to develop a project based learning unit to include: tree planting, care and maintenance on or near your school site. Teaching partners/groups are encouraged to facilitate planning/implementation of projects. This training is an opportunity to fulfill your Trees for Kids grant requirements.

Registration Deadline: January 9, 2015 
Registration Fee: $20.00; Registration form and fee must be received by the deadline to secure your spot at the workshop. Checks made payable to: IA Department of Natural Resources. Mail the form and fee to: Education and Outreach, Attn: School Site Projects, 2473 160th Road, Guthrie Center, IA 50115. Cancellation requests (for a full refund) must be received no later than January 12, 2015.


For questions regarding the workshop, contact: Laura Wagner, phone: (515) 725-8456, email: laura.wagner@dnr.iowa.gov or the Project Learning Tree office, phone: (641) 747-2200, email: EdInfo@dnr.iowa.gov

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Real Scientific Research and Data Professional Development


Leading Authentic Place-based Student Investigations: Water On-line Course (6-12 Educators)
February 2 – April 16, 2015
"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). Explore the DNR data resources and learn how you can use them in your classroom.

Each week a new course module focusing on a different topic related to the 5 Essential Features of Inquiry, place-based 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 January 23, 2015 - 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.