Water quality in Iowa continues to be a pressing topic in Iowa. The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF) recently developed a new set of 16 lesson plans that help teach water quality and nutrient management.

The lesson plans are targeted to high school students and can be used in agriculture classes, environmental science classes, and general science classes. The 16-lesson unit frames the issues that Iowans currently face with water quality including soil erosion and nutrient runoff. The lessons look at the science of soil structure, the nitrogen cycle, the water cycle, and soil conservation.

“We wanted to offer tools that focus on solving the water quality issues in Iowa,” said IALF executive director Will Fett. “Eight of the lessons specifically look at practices that farmers and landowners are implementing to try and reduce soil erosion and nitrogen leaching.”

Through a solutions-oriented approach the lesson plans look at no-till farming, cover crops, terracing, tiling, bioreactors, buffer strips, and riparian areas. Many of these practices are currently being used by farmers. The newer practices like bioreactors are being scaled up. Bioreactors utilize natural bacteria to help treat dissolved nitrates that may runoff of fields and convert those nitrates into harmless atmospheric nitrogen before they reach a watershed. Through extension activities, the lesson plans have students develop and design some of their own solutions to addressing water quality issues in the Midwest.

The lesson plans were introduced at a series of professional development workshops to teachers including workshops at the Iowa Association of Agriculture Educators annual meeting. The lesson plans will also be included in workshops at the Iowa Science Teaching Section conference in October 2017.

The lessons are made available free and are currently published on the IALF website at www.iowaagliteracy.org. The lessons are aligned to the Iowa Core Science Standards as well as the National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes. Lesson plan development was funded by the Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP CEP). The Conservation Education Program (CEP) is a key provision of the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Act of 1989. A five-member board implements the CEP and annually they allocate approximately $350,000 in grants for conservation education in Iowa. The purpose of the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) is to “invest in Iowa; our outdoors, our heritage, our people.” REAP is supported by the state of Iowa, providing funding to public and private partners for natural and cultural resources projects, including water quality, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, parks, trails, historic preservation and more.

The grant from the REAP Conservation Education Program is supporting the teacher professional development workshops that will train teachers on how best to use the lesson plans. Those workshops are also being supported in part by a grant from the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization underwritten by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For more information about this curriculum or other education activities please contact the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation at info@iowaagliteracy.org. 

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About the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa’s students about agriculture. The mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. Iowa is a leading producer of agricultural products that are essential to feed a growing world population, estimated to reach more than 9 billion by 2050. IALF believes it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives. IALF will support existing agriculture education efforts such as FFA, 4-H and Ag in the Classroom. IALF was created through a joint effort of agricultural stakeholders, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Silos and Smokestacks Foundation, DuPont Pioneer, GROWMARK, and the Iowa Beef Industry Council. For more information visit IALF online at IowaAgLiteracy.org, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Will Fett, Executive Director
Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation