Pathways to environmental education

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Marshall County Conservation Naturalist Emily Herring works with Extended Learning Program students.

At the beginning of October, I will have worked for Marshall County Conservation for one year. As I continue to get settled into my role as naturalist, the project list continues to grow. Leading the list of the many programs and projects I would like to accomplish at Marshall County Conservation, is creating school programming that is in line with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

“The Next Generation Science Standards are K-12 science content standards. Standards set the expectations for what students should know and be able to do. The NGSS were developed by states to improve science education for all students. These standards give local educators the flexibility to design classroom learning experiences that stimulate students’ interests in science and prepares them for college, careers, and citizenship.” (“Next Generation Science Standards,” 2017).

Most, if not all, schools across Iowa have already begun the transitions to teaching the NGSS. As a naturalist, I recognize that every minute I am allowed to spend with students in the classroom or in the field is priceless and often difficult for teachers to give up. My goal is to make sure that the environmental education I will be teaching will supplement the new standards. I have begun the arduous process of creating new programs and morphing old environmental education programs to align with NGSS. I was lucky enough to have an Extern this past summer who was a Grinnell Science teacher and she held my hand through understanding and translation of the NGSS.

As a naturalist for more than 10 years, this may single handedly be one of the hardest projects that I have taken on. I wouldn’t say it is fun; I won’t be getting muddy or spend time outdoors. However, when the project is completed, every teacher in Marshall County will be provided with a Marshall County Conservation Environmental Education Program Guide that will list programs available to them and which of the standards they help to reach. My hope is that this will encourage teachers to open their doors so environmental education can be brought into their classroom.

In 2002, as a college senior, I came across this quote. “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” (Baba Dioum, 1968.) This quote drives me to be a naturalist, to share my love for the natural world. My hope is that this extra leg work to align programming with NGSS will help me to share my passion for the natural world, so kids and adults understand the importance of conserving and caring for the very thing that we all rely upon.

Those interested in completing the Iowa Hunter Safety program yet this year have one more chance in Marshall County as various hunting seasons continue to open this fall. Participants MUST register online at before Oct. 3 and MUST complete online course before attending the class. Participants MUST print off and bring an online course certificate of completion to the field day to attend. The field day class will be held on Oct. 25, from 6-9 p.m. at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. Completion of hunter Safety course is required for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1972 who wishes to purchase a hunting license and must be 12 or older.

The Marshall County Conservation Board will be holding a public prairie seed harvest at the Marietta Sand Prairie on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. Participants will hand-pick seed from the prairie, which will be collected to redistribute at a later date. MCCB staff will show you how to harvest seed; no experience required and all equipment will be provided. Please wear long pants, sturdy shoes and bring a re-fillable water bottle. There is no fee pre-registration is required by Oct. 1 by calling (641) 752-5490.

The MCCB is also sponsoring a leisurely Sunday afternoon canoe float down the Iowa River on Oct. 15 beginning at 2 p.m. Join me as participants will explore the Iowa River from Furrow Access to Three Bridges Park. Participants are encouraged to bring their fishing poles or binoculars as the float meanders the river hopping down sand bars looking for treasures. Marshall County Conservation has a very limited number of canoes and kayaks available for participants to rent. There will be a boat $10 fee for all those renting boats form Marshall County Conservation. The rental period will be for the float only. Youth under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration and payment is required by Oct. 6 before 4 p.m. by calling the Conservation Center at (641) 752-5490.

The second of this year’s Iowa DNR urban trout release for Marshall County is scheduled for Friday Oct. 25 at approximately 11 a.m. at Sand Lake Recreation Area. This Octobers release marks the fifth year for trout to be stocked in the lake. The urban trout stocking program is supported by the trout fee which is required by anglers in addition to their regular fishing license. The daily limit is five trout per trout fee.


Emily Herring is the naturalist for the Marshall County Conservation Board.