Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Signs of Fall

Lead students on a walk through a wooded area, schoolyard, local park, or neighborhood sidewalk to look for signs of fall and investigate why leaves of deciduous trees change color.
  • Point out the differences between deciduous and evergreen trees.
  • Ask students to look for signs that indicate winter is approaching and record their observations – encourage students to look for animal signs as well (e.g., birds migrating, squirrels storing nuts).
Encourage critical thinking by asking:
What signs of fall can you see in the trees and on the ground?
How many different leaf colors can you find?
How do leaves change after they fall?
What will happen to the leaves?
Why Do Leaves Change Color?
With fall’s colder temperatures and shorter days, the cells of deciduous tree leaves begin to die. The dead cells block water and nutrients from the leaf. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves, breaks down and the yellow and red pigments begin to show through.
Native Americans had legends to explain the fall colors. Invite students to create their own imaginative stories.
For more information about Iowa Fall Colors, visit the Iowa DNR website.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Learning Science in 3 Dimensions

A Workshop for Pre-service and 1st and 2nd year Teachers
October 9
Noon to 5 p.m.
Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines

Join us for an afternoon of learning, building your practice and meeting other teachers new to the profession. Collaborate with and learn from experienced science educators. 

Register at the Iowa Academy of Science webpage. Sponsored by the Iowa Science Teaching Section of the Iowa Academy of Science and SCIowa.



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

BirdSleuth School Garden Grant

Cornell Lab of Ornithology is seeking 10 dedicated teachers who strive to bring STEM and healthy living from the garden to the classroom. These teachers will receive a $500-$2,000 grant, gardening supplies, and BirdSleuth’s Habitat Connections kit

Funds may be used to support the building or revitalization of school gardens. In addition to food gardens, preference will be given to bird, pollinator, native habitat, rain and other natural projects.

School gardens provide the context for lessons across subjects and offer a wonderful opportunity to engage students in hands-on, project-based learning. Students who engage in school gardening are likely to experience academic, physical, emotional, social, and even behavioral benefits.

Application Process & Eligibility
The application is open to all K-12 schools, public and private, within the United States. The online application process opens closes October 3, 2016 at 11:59pm ET. Email birdsleuth@cornell.edu with any questions.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Celebrate the Monarch’s journey at Blank Park Zoo Festival

Come celebrate the monarch’s journey from Canada, through Iowa, to Mexico at the 2016 Monarch Festival on Sunday, September 18 from 12-4 p.m. at Blank Park Zoo, in Des Moines.

Monarch Festival Activities:
  • Come dressed as your favorite insect for the 3rd Annual Children’s Bug Parade. Wear your wings, your orange and black, antennae or make your costume at the Zoo. There will be special prizes for First and Second place Best Costumes.
  • Polk County Conservation will lead Insect Hunts and a Monarch Tagging event. Learn how to safely catch monarch butterflies to attach a tag. If these special monarchs are found in Mexico, they can help scientists track the migration.
  • Numerous Plant.Grow.Fly. partners will offer hands-on activities, demonstrations and crafts for the whole family.
  • Los Ninos del Tepeyac - Danza Folklorica, a group dedicated to learning and teaching about the Mexican culture through dance, will perform.
  • Explore our Butterfly Garden and experience traditional Mexican music by Mariachi Azteca.
  • Families and kids of all ages are encouraged to take part in an interactive performance workshop called Follow That Monarch by Carol Taylor's Patchwork Puppets.  
  • Create your own butterfly oasis in your yard with free milkweed seeds provided by Blank Park Zoo and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge (limited supply).
  • Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and Nevada Mayor Lynn Lathrop will be recognized for signing the Mayors for Monarchs Pledge.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Apply for a GreenWorks! Environmental Improvement Grant

Project Learning Tree offers grants up to $1,000 to schools and youth organizations for environmental service-learning projects that link classroom learning to the real world. Students implement an action project they help design to green their school or to improve an aspect of their neighborhood’s environment.
The projects partner students with their whole school, local businesses and/or community organizations, and provide opportunities for student leadership. The funds can be used by students to implement recycling programs at their school, conserve water and energy, establish school gardens and outdoor classrooms, improve a forest, or restore a natural habitat, for example.

Submit your completed application and W-9 online. Login or create an account, click “Apply for a Grant,” then follow the prompts to complete your submission. You will receive an automatic confirmation email through this system.  The deadline to apply is September 30, 2016 -- Funding will be distributed in December 2016.
Grant Requirements
  • Applicants must have attended a Project Learning Tree training either online or in person.
  • 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).
  • Grants must be completed in one year

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Birding with Kids

Bird watching is a great way for kids to become aware of birds. Birds can be found anywhere, all year round. Gather the basic gear—a field notebook, a field guide, and binoculars, if you have them—and go outside.

Bird behavior is fascinating to children and adults. Different species have definite and recognizable behaviors. Some bird behaviors are so species-specific that one can identify a bird on location and behavior description alone.

Weekly migration forecasts are available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s  BirdCast project to help you know what to look for and which days to go out. Have kids observe and record what they see in several different habitats and make comparisons.

Wildlife professionals inventory wildlife populations to gather information about the number and kinds of wildlife in a given area. Use Project WILD’s “Bird Song Survey” to give your students experience inventory a local bird population.
Apps for Birding with Kids
Because of the simple, user-friendly interface, birding becomes both easy and fun. To identify a bird, Merlin first asks five questions – when, where, size, color, and activity of the bird observed. Using eBird data, Merlin then gives the most common species around you who fit the criteria provided. It also provides 1,000+ photo resources, tips from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s expert birders, and bird sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library. Cost: Free for iOS and Android users.
BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide*
Information and population statistics on 1,000+  birds across North America. View seasonal populations, current lists of birds reported near your location and notifications of when rare birds are observed in your area. Open up the “Browse by Location tab in the app to view checklists that were recently submitted in nearby areas. Cost: Free for iOS and Android users.
Useful Websites

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Join the Iowa DNR at the 2016 Iowa State Fair

Stop by the Iowa DNR building to see the Iowa fish in the historic aquarium, have your questions answered, and take in a presentation in the beautiful courtyard.

Check out these presentations (the whole courtyard schedule is available at iowadnr.gov/IowaStateFair):

Thursday, August 11
Get Active, Get Healthy, Get Outdoors!

We’re kicking off our the fair at the DNR Building with a Q&A session with DNR Director Chuck Gipp in the morning, followed by several other events throughout the day. In the afternoon, bring the kids to the DNR courtyard to craft tools for your aspiring nature detectives.

Friday, August 12
Bring Nature to your Backyard

What’s all the buzz about pollinators? Join us on Friday to find out. Whether you’re listening to State Forester Paul Tauke field questions, or making seed bombs to attract pollinators to your backyard, be prepared to learn about Iowa’s little wonders.

Saturday, August 13
Come Fish with Us

Fishing Day in the courtyard begins with a question and answer session with Fisheries Bureau Chief Joe Larscheid, followed by an instructional presentation for kids who want to learn to fish. In the afternoon, you can get the scoop on primitive fish or get a close up look at real Iowa turtles.

Sunday, August 14
Wild in Iowa

With appearances from live trumpeter swans and Iowa’s reptiles and amphibians, Sunday will be a wild day in the courtyard. At noon, join us for an activity teaching kids the best and safest ways to bring wildlife to your backyard.

Monday, August 15
Taking to the Field

Monday is the day of the hunt. Come by the courtyard to pick up information and expertise on a variety of hunting topics. Whether you’re training a new hunting dog, looking for the perfect hunting spot, or hoping to cook wild game of your own, find what you’re looking for here on Monday.

Tuesday, August 16
Iowa’s Habitat Heroes

We have a responsibility to respect and protect our natural habitats. Visit the DNR building for information on the newest and brightest ways of looking after Iowa’s natural wonders.  Celebrate Iowa’s tradition of responsibly managing our resources and hear about the next steps we can take as community to continue this cause.

Wednesday, August 17
Conservation Leaders Past and Present

With a highlight on the Civilian Conservation Corps, Wednesday will honor the accomplishments of Iowa’s great conservationists. At noon, enjoy the presentation of Eagle Scout projects in our courtyard, followed by a presentation on Ding Darling, famed Iowa cartoonist and conservation leader.

Thursday, August 18
Spend S’more Time in State Parks

Pick up some tips and tricks to getting the most from your local state park all day. Starting off with a Q&A from State Park Chief Todd Coffelt, Thursday is for everyone from State Park enthusiasts to future visitors. Don’t miss a dialogue about natural ways of warding off pesky mosquitoes at 1 p.m.

Friday, August 19
Come Fish with Us

The art of fishing is as intricate it is enticing, so come by on Friday for a second helping of fishing guidance and encouragement. Fisheries Bureau Chief Joe Larscheid returns for another discussion in the morning, and be sure to check out the live turtles native to Iowa in the afternoon. Kids are encouraged to join us at 11 a.m. for more fishing basics.

Saturday, August 20

Junk becomes art! In the morning, take part in a Q&A with Land Quality Bureau Chief Alex Moon. Give old stuff a breath of new life with crafty activities that upcycle junk to treasure for both kids and adults all day until 4 in the DNR courtyard.

Sunday, August 21
EXTREME Outdoors

Our final day will consist of educating the public on the extreme outdoors. Come by at noon to begin your quest to become a citizen scientist for Iowa’s resources. Join us anytime between 11-3 to take part in the adventure of building beautiful birdhouses.