Connect to Nature at February Virtual Eco Family Conference

AMES, Iowa – “When we love the place where we live, we take better care of it,” said Kristi Cooper, a family life specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She will discuss how to develop a sense of place and build communities that connect people with nature during the Virtual Eco Family Conference on Feb. 2.

The February session is the second in the online conference series from ISU Extension and Outreach. On the first Thursday of each month through June, a 90-minute webinar will feature a different speaker addressing a different environmental topic. All sessions begin at 7 p.m.

To participate in the conference, families need a computer with high-speed Internet access, speakers or headphones, and a microphone, if they wish to speak to the instructor. They also can communicate with the instructor by typing their questions or comments in the online chat box. The registration fee is $15 per person. Once registered, participants will receive log-in directions for accessing the virtual classroom for all conference sessions.

Eco Family ConferenceConnection Builds Resiliency

During the Feb. 2 conference session Cooper will present research on human psychological, cognitive and physiological needs to connect with nature.

“Do you know your watershed address, your bio region or your growing zone? What did the land you live on used to be? Answering these questions can help people begin to reconnect with the environment,” Cooper said.

“When we create the connection, it helps us become more resilient as human beings, and it helps the environment become more resilient,” Cooper said.

Conference participants will take part in small group discussions and develop personal action plans, Cooper explained. “As Iowans gather ‘round their computers to join our ‘electronic meeting room,’ we want to help them think about these environmental issues and practical action steps they can take in their own home and neighborhood.”

The online conference series is part of a new initiative from ISU Extension and Outreach to help Iowans make conscious decisions about the environment, Cooper said.

“We’re offering the conference virtually because we want to make it available to people in multiple places, rather than limit the learning experiences to a geographic location,” said Cooper, who is one of the conference organizers.

“With a virtual conference, people can get connected to others with similar interests without adding to their carbon footprint by driving to an event. Also, this is a way for people to create community close to where they live if they choose. They can invite their family, neighbors and friends to view the webinar together in their home,” Cooper said.

Register for Remaining Sessions

“If you missed the January session, you still can register and participate in the rest of the conference,” Cooper said. For registration information contact Cooper at 319-377-9839 ( or Brenda Schmitt, ISU Extension family finance specialist and conference organizer, at 641-512-0650 ( The registration form is online; print it, complete it and mail with a check for $15 to ISU Extension and Outreach, P.O. Box 368, Allison, IA 50602.

In other sessions

  • Pat Higby, energy educator from the University of Northern Iowa, will talk about energy on March 1.
  • Pat Sauer, with the Iowa Storm Water Education Program and Rainscaping Iowa, and urban conservationist Amy Bouska, of Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District, will discuss water as a precious resource on April 5.
  • Fred Meyer, an ecological designer as well as founder and executive director of Backyard Abundance, will address edible landscape design on May 3.
  • The June 7 session will cover basic information on composting.

“If participants are interested in duplicating what they see and hear during the conference sessions, we encourage them to start a local steering committee. We would be glad to help them build a vision and map out action steps to make their dream a reality,” Schmitt added.