Water rocks! back in schools and online, bigger and better than ever


The 2020 and 2021 pandemic has forever changed the way awareness and education can be conducted. He bears part of the responsibility for the exciting new program of Water Rocks! that emerged from the cauldron of change created by school closures, ever-changing rules and best practices. Innovation and creativity were the watchwords within the Water Rocks team, and there was a lot of both. Some of the ideas and efforts met immediate needs and were scrapped over time, but others were so successful that they expanded the programming menu available to schools from Iowa to to come up.

“Being online was certainly nothing new for Water Rocks, as we had created videos and had substantial online content before the pandemic, but going all virtual was a different challenge; and we did a lot very quickly to support the pandemic. independent home and distance – school education for all of our target audiences, “says Ann Staudt, Director of Water Rocks.” Early additions to the lineup included Water Rocks Out of the Box, a YouTube video science lesson series; and Water Rocks Unplugged, another YouTube series that used live performances of Water Rocks music to give brief conservation lessons. These quick hits were appreciated by teachers and parents, and gave us a bit of a break for ourselves. retooling over the long term. ”

New programs

Other programs stemming from the dramatic changes in the education landscape include the award-winning Harmony Brook Watershed video series for young learners, a strong outdoor classroom program that combines the excitement of Water Rocks assembly programs with the science of traditional classroom visits in one, an educational experience that meets all the requirements and restrictions of the school; live classroom tours; and Water Rocks Spoken Earth workshops for high school students.

Harmony Brook Watershed is a web-based video series that employs live actors (Water Rocks employees) and puppets to explore lessons about Iowa’s ecosystems, conservation, and natural resources. The series received the 2021 Award of Excellence in the Web Series category from the Iowa Motion Picture Association. A new season of episodes will be released throughout the final months of 2021.

“Water Rocks benefited from the knowledge gained from webinars that our partner program Iowa Learning Farms had been producing for several years, but going from a weekly webinar targeting adults to producing a live remote classroom tour took a lot of time. ‘experimentation, introspection and continuous improvement, “continues Staudt.” We received compliments and excellent comments from the teachers and students who participated in the live class tours, but we finally got there. finding that, when practical, being in school has the greatest impact on learners and helps ensure that we fulfill our mission. “

The Outdoor Classroom Tours program was born out of this desire to interact in person with learners across the state. Launched in the spring semester 2021, the outdoor classrooms take advantage of the equipment and materials already available with conservation stations to create a safe learning space in almost any parking lot, park or playground. games. With a few minor adjustments, outdoor tours resumed in August, and the September schedule was chock-full of tours across Iowa. Sure, the Iowa winter weather will force the program on a hiatus, but it’s a welcome option by schools looking for ways to re-engage students in science learning with a fun, portable field trip that comes to school.

During the winter months, live classroom visits will resume. These one-on-one classroom tours use a variety of feedback and live polling tools to help the presenter ensure understanding and guide the teacher in reinforcing the material locally.

For older students, Water Rocks Spoken Earth workshops were developed and piloted in early 2021 to encourage participants to contemplate their environment and ecosystem and to express their feelings about them and their hopes for the future through the creation of original oral poems.

Again, the virtual format was a challenge, but with an almost universal familiarity and comfort with the pandemic-driven video conferencing platforms, interactions between workshop facilitators and participants were fruitful and enriching. The program is being prepared for a new workshop season later this year and will be available to even more participants than the first season.

“We are all ready to return to the schools with our assemblies and interior classroom tours when the schools are ready to receive us, but we are also very happy to offer additional program options for remote participation and distance, and an education that offers educators an even wider choice to reinforce what they teach in the classroom, ”concludes Staudt. “We will be online, in the classroom or outside the classroom – whatever best meets the needs of schools and youth in Iowa for science education and quality awareness raising. water, conservation and natural resources. “

To learn more about the Water Rocks programs available at all schools in Iowa, visit waterrocks.org.

Stevenson is a visual awareness specialist and conservation educator with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks.

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