Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team
Agriculture and Natural Resources
- The ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program distributed 15 mini-grants courtesy of Iowa State University’s SNAP-Education. The mini-grants were awarded to 15 counties and six demonstration gardens at Iowa State research farms as part of the Growing Together initiative. More than 231 Master Gardeners were involved in the projects. Together they were able to grow 74,841 pounds of produce that was donated to 75 food pantries and food banks, producing nearly 225,000 servings of fruits and vegetables to Iowans with low income.
- Master Gardener volunteers — 1,923 of them to be exact – donated 115,055 hours to grow food, fight food insecurity and help beautify the state of Iowa throughout 2017. That equals 60 hours worked per volunteer, significantly more than the 20 hours Master Gardener volunteers are required to complete each year. The volunteer time Master Gardeners spent is the equivalent of more than $2.7 million. The volunteers completed a variety of projects, such as growing fresh produce for food pantries, helping three other states launch similar programs to fight food insecurity, and planting milkweed plugs and other plants that attract pollinators.
- Social media continues to be an influential platform for the agricultural industry as a whole and the trend holds true in Iowa. Many producers are looking for a fast, easy way to collect and share information with the agriculture community and ANR specialists and teams have joined the conversation. The ANR Social Media Directory captures 127 social media accounts across seven social media platforms posting on behalf of ANR. To date, those ANR social media accounts reach 70,895 followers and subscribers, up 8,058 in the last six months. Notably, Twitter is the most influential platform with 53,906 followers looking for ANR information, followed by Facebook with 13,205 page likes. ANR continues to impact and influence the agriculture and natural resources industry in Iowa.
Community and Economic Development
- Community and Economic Development is now offering the Marketing Hometown America program that has been successfully used by Cooperative Extension programs in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota to help communities home in on what people are looking for when they choose a place to live and do business. Monona and Harrison counties currently are participating in the first round of Marketing Hometown America in Iowa.
- CED staff will be conducting Navigating Difference© training workshops for West Des Moines department heads/supervisors on Feb. 13 and 27. Ross Wilburn will be teaching Navigating Difference© Module 1 with Ames employees on Feb. 14, 15 and 20.
- Nature Explore® is a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. It focuses on increasing and enhancing children and families’ access to nature-based experiences to foster a sense of wonder and overall well-being. Opportunities with Nature Explore® include early childhood professional development workshops, downloadable family support materials, nature-based resources and materials, and outdoor classroom certification. In January 2017, ISU Extension and Outreach and other partners from six counties in Northeast Iowa (Howard, Winneshiek, Allamakee, Chickasaw, Fayette and Clayton) came together to discuss the potential to bring Nature Explore® to local communities. The project is gaining momentum, additional partners and support. Three of the county extension councils have committed dollars to the program, and the Northeast Iowa Funders Network awarded the team a two-year grant of $15,000. This project demonstrates the success of a committed effort for program sustainability.
- Although program evaluation is ongoing, initial results for the Essentials Online Child Care Preservice Program demonstrate impact. Participants were asked what they liked most about the program. Of the 1,855 who responded, 81 percent liked having the ability to stop and come back and complete a lesson; 73 percent liked having 24/7 access; 67 percent liked being able to retake a quiz; and 60 percent liked being able to print a certificate upon completing the course. Participants also were asked what improvements they would make to the training. Responses included: “Nothing! I really enjoyed the layout and easy access of this course and would take it again if necessary.” “This course was a very great way of teaching and understanding children and my duties as a provider.” “I’ve learned so much and I am excited about using these tools and knowledge I have gained to make my daycare much more safe, enjoyable and run smoother.”
- Lesia Oesterreich, an extension state specialist in family life and adjunct assistant professor in human development and family studies, is representing Iowa State University and the state of Iowa on the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance Peer Learning Team. The goals are to explore effective technical assistance systems in Quality Rating Improvement systems and develop state specific goals for sustainability.
- Human sciences staff Christine Hradek, Justine Hoover and Jody Gatewood delivered a nationwide webcast Jan. 23, 2018, for the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior. They focused on “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” online resources as a companion to nutrition education initiatives.
4-H Youth Development
- 4-H is developing one-day educational summer programs that can be implemented in any county. Programs can be combined to serve youth in afterschool or in-school activities, camps, clubs/learning communities or events. These programs include: See the Light, Play with the Shadows (Grades 4-8); Building Blocks of Entrepreneurship (Grades 6-8); Get in on the Act! (Grades 4-8); Expand My World – Your Passport to Adventure! (youth who have completed Grades K-3); The Science of BBQ (Grades 4-8); Monarchs on the Move (Grades 4-8); and Quest to Be Your Best (Grades 4-8).
- Iowa 4-H is looking to invest around $100,000 in ag educational product development in 2018. 4-H held a product development advisory meeting, bringing together 4-H staff, ANR faculty and staff, and several ag industry representatives; then followed up with surveys of youth and others. As a result, some new projects under development include a challenge in which youth work in groups with experts to solve an agricultural issue, an ag literacy educational module about where food comes from, lessons using virtual reality to educate youth on ag topics, and lessons on drones and biotechnology.
- Camera Corps enrollment has increased to 250 team members for 2017-2018, representing 86 counties. This is a 49 percent increase in enrollment over last year.