What do rubber ducks, dogs, pirates, poop and poodle skirts have in common? These are all tools being used to promote a new statewide awareness campaign called "Water Rocks!" At the recent annual meeting of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Iowa, held in Des Moines, I and a couple hundred other people had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Jacqueline Comito, director of the campaign. She explained the Water Rocks! project and showed several of the videos she and her team produced.
Water Rocks! is an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach campaign delivering entertaining and engaging activities to inspire kids of all ages to appreciate water resources. Through classroom visits, an interactive website, an award-winning computer game, songs, music videos, dogs, enhanced learning activities, public service ads, teacher/peer mentor workshops and geocaching, Water Rocks! offers an original, light-hearted approach to this vast topic.
"It begins and ends with water," says Comito, an anthropologist who is manager of the Iowa Learning Farms program at ISU. "The long-term health of our land and water rests in our youth, the future decision-makers. In Water Rocks!, we use music, science, math, art, video and technology as the means of reminding students of the fact that water is elemental to life. Our campaign reaches people through music, in-person presentations, the use of outdoor nature settings, and through the media."
Through music -- the campaign reaches kids and other people by using music in a big way to show that water really does rock
Kids, families and classrooms can watch original music videos on the Water Rocks! website or YouTube channel. "Human Landfills," "Everybody Poops" and "Will U B the H 2 my O?" offer catchy tunes and great visuals to make learning easier. "Music is elemental to our lives. Something sung is more powerful and easier to remember than spoken word. It triggers our imagination and touches our heart," says Comito.
In person -- the Water Rocks! team visits schools across Iowa free of charge
The Water Rocks! team visits K-12 classrooms across Iowa, at no charge, teaching kids about water, natural resources and agriculture. Weaving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with the arts, students complete learning activities. Within a class period, kids can learn a new song, learn what a watershed is and which one they live in, or learn about soil properties.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The team also may bring the Conservation Station in the spring and fall months. The Conservation Station teaches how agriculture and urban areas are connected through water. Its rainfall simulator shows the effects of rainfall on various surfaces including bare soil, no-tilled soil and types of pavement.
In 2014, Water Rocks! will hold a teacher summit for selected Iowa educators and student peer mentors to discuss water education. They will take a kit of the Water Rocks! activities back to use in their classrooms.
Through nature -- Water Rocks! urges everyone to spend more time outside
Water Rocks! encourages everyone to spend more time outside and appreciate Iowa's natural areas. Geocaching is a great activity to do as a family, in small groups or alone. Using a GPS device or smartphone, geocachers seek treasure boxes or caches, hidden all over Iowa. Water Rocks! caches will use riddles and fun facts to teach the participants about watersheds, water quality and the parks. These caches have been placed in 11 Iowa state parks for geocachers to find while exploring these beautiful areas. Coordinates to these caches are on the Water Rocks! website.
Through media -- the Water Rocks! website has videos that remind Iowans why water quality is important
The Water Rocks! website also has videos that resonate with the affection Iowans have for the state. "Treasures of Iowa" and "I am an Iowan" are reminders of how wonderful Iowa is and why water quality is important here. Watch and listen for the public service ads "What's in your water?" on WHO and KWWL television stations as well as on Radio Iowa affiliated stations.
The nationally recognized computer game "Rock Your Watershed!" uses agricultural scenarios to teach the effects of different land treatments. The game recently won national honors from the American Society of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineers. All of the videos, songs and the computer game can be found on the Water Rocks! website www.waterrocks.org. New videos and educational materials will be released on a monthly basis starting in September 2013.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The sister website, www.conservationpack.org, explores natural resources through the Conservation Dogs. Like dogs working together in a pack, kids can work together to conserve natural resources. The Conservation Dogs are busy visiting people who work with some aspect of water in the video series "Adventures of the Conservation Pack." The Water Rocks! team uses stories and photographs of the dogs to help younger students in the classroom to learn about natural resources.
Visit the Water Rocks! website to learn more and request a classroom visit by the team to your school
Water Rocks! encourages everyone to appreciate the abundance of water that Iowa has and not take it for granted. The campaign brings awareness and education to a wide variety of audiences using different learning approaches. Visit the website to learn more and to request a classroom visit www.waterrocks.org.
Partners of Water Rocks! are ISU Extension and Outreach, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Water Center and Iowa Learning Farms.
Kids today like to use their smartphones, digital tablet devices and computers to get information
Summing up: "We asked kids what media delivery methods they like to use and pay attention to these days," says Comito. "They like to use their smartphones and digital tablet devices and computers. We put Water Rocks! together to reach kids with the message that they should conserve and preserve the environment and our natural resources. We have a wonderful interactive website you can go to and play a fun game that teaches these lessons. The game won a national award. The website also provides access to music videos that deliver various messages emphasizing the importance of water. We have 34 videos right now. We produced these videos and this work right here in Iowa. All this is being done primarily with Iowa talent. You should be proud.
"We've also found that geocaching is a great way to teach conservation," Comito adds. "Teachers can train fellow teachers and high school students who can then serve as peer mentors, teaching younger kids. We urge your soil and water conservation district commissioners and anyone else who is interested to contact your school district and get a teacher to host a Water Rocks! presentation at your school."