Putting water quality education in the classroom

Putting water quality education in the classroom

The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF) recently developed a new set of 16 lesson plans that help teach water quality and nutrient management. The new curricula comes in response to water quality issues in the state.

The lesson plans are targeted to high school students and can be used in agriculture classes and environmental science classes, as well as 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 also will be included in workshops at the Iowa Science Teaching Section conference in October.

The lessons are aligned to the Iowa Core Science Standards, as well as National Agriculture Literacy outcomes, and are available for download at no cost at www.iowaagliteracy.org.

For more information about this curricula or other educational resources, contact the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation at info@iowaagliteracy.org.