Jones County 4-H'ers explore water quality

Jones County 4-H’ers Lillian Strait (left) and Maddy Fischer attended the Iowa 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, March 7-8, in Ames. The program was titled: “Water Connects Us All.” (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Two Jones County 4-H girls had an opportunity recently to explore how “water connects us all.”

     Maddy Fischer, an eighth grader in Anamosa, and Lillian Strait, a high school junior at Midland, attended the Iowa 4-H Ag Innovators Experience at Iowa State University in Ames. The event took place March 7-8. Accompanying the girls were Extension Director Jennifer Fischer; Jacki Luckstead; Extension youth program specialist; and Molly Schmitt, youth program coordinator.

     The teen leader training program was titled “Water Connects Us All, which focused on the ecosystem, as related to clean water and its role in securing a sustainable food supply.

     “Youth were challenged to better understand and contribute toward conservation practices to improve water quality.”

     The concept behind the Ag Innovator Experience is “a program that helps young people develop the skills needed to feed a growing world population. The program drives youth awareness of, and interest in, agriculture innovation and agriculture careers by tying in relevant concepts like aquaculture and environmental stewardship with a hands-on activity that makes learning fun.”

     Both girls found out about the opportunity through local Extension staff.

     “It was cool to learn more about water,” said Strait. “I didn’t know a lot about water quality before this.”

     Fischer, who enjoys science, said Ag Innovators was right up her alley.

     “I thought it was good to do more and get more involved,” she said, expanding her 4-H experience.

     The two-day event highlighted several topics related to water:

     • Rain gardens

     • Bioswales, which use vegetation to feed off of rain water and become natural filters

     • Saturated buffers, which soak up the run-off water and keep materials from getting into the river systems

     • Clean water

     • Bioreactors, which are tubes filled with woodchip-type material that soak up the nitrates and produce clean water

     After attending the workshop in Ames, both Strait and Fischer are now able and ready to bring what they learned to the youth of Jones County. Each of them must reach up to 50 kids.

     From the topics covered, some are more geared toward rural situations, others are urban practices.

     “With each of the five areas, we learned activities we can teach and model how the concept works,” explained Strait.

     “It’s all about helping the environment,” added Fischer. While at ISU, a young girl in one of Fischer’s classes felt inspired to ask her mom if they could build a rain garden. “They can take home these lessons and help our water system.”

     Strait, who lives near the Wapsipinicon River, said this opportunity has opened her eyes to the cleanliness of river water.

     Luckstead it’s not just about teaching a younger generation, but teaching older people as well.

     “These girls can teach their own parents to be more aware,” said Luckstead.

     Schmitt said Ag Innovators Experience could also lead to future career exploration.

     Right now, Strait and Fischer are looking at ideas and ways to bring “Water Connects Us All” to others in Jones County, whether it’s local libraries, elementary schools, 4-H Summer Discovery, or holding a program at Central Park over the summer.

     “This curriculum lines up with the Iowa Core Standards,” explained Schmitt of the benefit. “It’s reach-based and factual.”

     “It matches what schools are already teaching,” added Luckstead.

     Both Luckstead and Schmitt are credited with authoring the national curriculum as reviewers and pilot testers.

     Ag Innovators Experience topics that have been explored in the past include: native bees and monarchs.


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