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Environmental instruction grant to benefit Oelwein rain garden

Upper Iowa University assistant professor of education/environmental issues instruction (eii) director Dr. Barb Ehlers (left) is pictured presenting Oelwein (Iowa) Middle School science teacher Jill Kelly with a $2,987 sub grant. The funds will be used to build a rain garden at Platt’s Park in Oelwein.

Upper Iowa University assistant professor of education/environmental issues instruction (eii) director Dr. Barb Ehlers recently presented a $2,987 sub grant to Oelwein (Iowa) Middle School.

Oelwein Middle School science teacher Jill Kelly and Lori Leo, a former Oelwein science teacher and now an eii teacher leader, applied for the grant. With assistance from the city parks department and Josh Johnson, the funds will be used to build a rain garden at Platt’s Park in Oelwein. Prior to assisting with the construction, the participating middle school students will study rain gardens, watersheds and water testing.

Kelly attended an eii workshop entitled “Water Connects Us All” in Mount Vernon in February 2019. The five-day graduate credit course focused on learning about environmental issues related to water quality. Participants had the opportunity to apply for a grant to buy instructional materials and supplies to carry out a project in their community to improve water quality.

First administered by Upper Iowa University in 2011, eii workshops are typically offered to approximately 50 teachers each academic year. Practicing teachers of all grade levels are the main audience for the graduate-level workshops, which are each based on an environmental issue theme. Additional environmental educators such as naturalists and pre-service educators are also welcome to attend. The lessons and activities are interdisciplinary in nature, and participating teachers are encouraged to modify the curriculum to fit the needs of their own students. The curriculum is also aligned with the Iowa Core and Next Generation Science Standards.

Ehlers first took a graduate level eii workshop in 1989. She was later asked to become a teacher leader and served in that capacity for several years before becoming an eii staff member and eventually its director. In addition to Ehlers, eii associate directors include UIU associate professor of geosciences Dr. Kata McCarville, New Hampton Schools K-12 extended learning program teacher Jeff Monteith and University of Iowa graduate student Cathryn Carney.

All activities conducted in the eii workshop are aligned with the standards in the Common Core and Iowa Core, Next Generation Science Standards, 7 Cross-Cutting Concepts of the Framework for K-12 Science Education, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The theme of eii workshops are to preserve and protect community water resources.

Two additional eii workshops will be offered at the UIU-Quad Cities Center in Bettendorf in November 2019 and at UIU’s Fayette Campus in February 2020. For additional information, contact Ehlers at ehlersb@uiu.edu.

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