"Get Down, Dig In, and Get Wet!" Summer Day Camps

Dan Burkhart, Fayette County Extension Education Director


Governor Tom Vilsack has outlined an ambitious goal of making the waters of Iowa fishable, swimmable and drinkable (with adequate treatment) by the year 2010. To meet this goal, citizens need to value water quality and recognize it as a fundamental requirement to the future of Iowa. This goal can only be reached by education of the general public.


The NE Iowa Extension staff selected environmental education of the general public as one of its top educational initiatives for the next 4 -5 years. Our goal is to convince the public that 1) they can make a difference and improve Iowa's water quality and 2) it's everyone's responsibility to make it happen. The question Extension staff want people to ask themselves is "What can I do to improve Iowa's water?" A committee of CEEDs, Dan Burkhart, Darrell Hanson, Bruce Bearinger, Field Specialist/Ag Engineer Dan Meyer and Upper Maquoketa Watershed Coordinator, John Rodecap applied for and received a $14,260 REAP grant to enhance the Extension educational effort. In addition to creating several educational displays, and power point presentations, grant funds were used to hire Jonna Worden, a Life in Iowa student from Iowa State University for the summer of 2004. Jonna's main task was to create a environmental education curriculum for a series of environmental day camps for youth during the summer of 2004. The curriculum would be used as a base for future environmental education activities for youth. Prior to Jonna's arrival, several NE Iowa counties requested day camps for children ages kindergarten through eighth grade.


Life in Iowa student Jonna Worden began by researching materials and methods for day camps that would attract youth, get them involved in "hands on" water quality educational activities and impact the committee's long-term educational goals. A day camp called "Get Down, Dig In, and Get Wet" included activities for all grade levels. Water quality teaching modules included ground water sources and contamination, water filtration, water testing, and exploration of streams, ponds and lakes. A list of resources and training aides available at partnering agencies was also developed. This eliminated the need of spending grant dollars to duplicate already existing resources. Some examples are the Enviroscope teaching model, the "GREAT" ground water model and teaching kit, aquatic invertebrate sampling nets and ID materials. Most are available from NRCS and/or County Conservation boards. Jonna conducted eight day camps in NE Iowa in the summer of 2004. One hundred and eleven youth participated. Jonna evaluated each activity and made changes to the activities if necessary. Oral pre- and post-tests were given at each camp. All camps showed positive changes in the participants attitudes regarding the importance of protecting Iowa's ground water. Copies of Jonna's resource packet will be shared with all NE Iowa counties to help prepare for future youth environmental education activities. The NE Iowa Extension Environmental Education committee says, it's time to ask yourself " What can I do to improve Iowa's water?"

Page last updated: July 6, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu