Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team
Community and Economic Development
- The 2020 Community Visioning Program will be conducting a series of transportation assets and barriers focus-group workshops in February. These workshops are part of the assessment process that the program conducts in client communities to provide local decision makers a framework within which to make informed choices. Transportation assets and barriers workshops will be conducted in Mingo, Mount Pleasant, Wellsburg and Polk City. CED specialists Aimee Viniard-Weideman, Eric Christianson and Scott Timm will assist in facilitating the focus groups. Trees Forever field coordinators will also be presenting bioregional assessments prepared by ISU program staff to steering committees in Avoca, Madrid, Reinbeck and Lost Nation.
- In February, CED specialists will be facilitating the Business Model Canvas in Ames and Mount Pleasant. Business Model Canvas Is a strategic management tool created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.
- Also in February, CED specialists will be facilitating Leading Communities in Appanoose County, Cresco, and Chickasaw County. This Leading Communities program is made possible in part by a Vice President for Extension and Outreach initiative.
- During federal FY 2019, the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app was installed on 6,200 new mobile devices. The website had 148,374 users, an increase of 30,000 users over federal FY 2018. The vast majority of users access the website in English. However, 906 utilized the live translation feature, with 525 accessing it in Portuguese, 128 in French and 253 in Spanish. Fifty-two percent of users now access the site via a mobile device. According to a user survey in September 2019, 49% of users access the site or app weekly or daily. When asked about behavior changes made with the help of Spend Smart. Eat Smart., users reported they cook healthy recipes, eat more fruits and vegetables, and try new foods.
- During 2019, human sciences specialists in family finance, usually with support from county extension offices, provided direct leadership in 11 counties in recruiting, training and supporting volunteer tax preparers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program of the Internal Revenue Service. In many communities additional local partner organizations also support VITA efforts. Modest funding, provided through the Iowa Center for Economic Success, covers cost of equipment, supplies, training, outreach, coordination, volunteer appreciation and travel reimbursement for volunteers and staff. Extension staff recruit and support additional volunteers and partners who assist with scheduling appointments and tax clinic operation.
— In the 2018-19 tax season, 37 volunteers prepared 1,163 tax returns for households with low and moderate incomes at 13 sites in the 11 counties.
— The programs assisted 68 additional households that did not need to file or for some other reason elected not to complete returns.
— Approximately 265 of these households were eligible for the Earned Income Credit.
— Tax refunds claimed through extension-supported VITA sites totaled nearly $1.7 million.
— The VITA program saved the participants about $175,000 in tax preparation fees (estimated at $150 per return).
— A new site in Waterloo served immigrants in the community and included immigrants as volunteer preparers.
4-H Youth Development
- 4-H is revising the 12 seasonal Clover Kids lessons that were piloted during the past year and is developing the second set of 12 seasonal agendas. These 24 lessons will make up the next K-3 curriculum, STEAM’n through the Seasons. This innovative K-3 program will include engaging, hands-on experiences that incorporate STEM, literacy and the arts. In addition, 14 Clover Kids teams are kicking off the Wonder League Robotics season. Through a series of story-based missions, the team members develop problem-solving, growth mindset and creativity skills while learning to code the robot duo, Dash and Dot. This year, Wonder League has partnered with the Cartoon Network show, Craig of the Creek, to develop five theme-based missions that take Dash and Dot on adventures through the wilderness. At the end of the season, Iowa 4-H will host a Clover Kids (K-3) Wonder League Robotics expo on the Iowa State campus. The tentative date is Saturday, April 25.
- In January Maya Hayslett led a team of 10 teens and four other adults at the 2020 4-H National Summit on Agri-science in Washington, D.C. The team participated in a variety of workshops and presentations about agriculture. Hayslett presented a session on the new set of Crops Feed the World lessons. Youth participants also were able to visit Smithsonian Museums and national monuments.
- 4-H is revising the 10-year-old Ricochet curriculum. Updates include activities, photos, accessibility, the website and more. The team has seven facilitator trainings scheduled for 2020 for staff to either get a refresher in Ricochet facilitation or learn how to use it for the first time. The Ricochet revision process is scheduled to be complete by mid-February.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Jay Harmon was named the director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and associate dean for extension and outreach programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State on Jan. 1. Harmon, a professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering and extension livestock housing specialist, has served as interim since April 2017 and has been a member of Iowa State’s faculty since 1993.
- The 64th annual Iowa State University Shade Tree Short Course will be held Feb. 25-27 in Ames and will focus on both using and reusing trees with a purpose. General information sessions, workshops covering specific topics and a trade show are all included, with ISU Extension and Outreach specialists joining experts from across the country in providing instruction. Registration is available online. Private pesticide applicator certification is also available during the course.
- The Iowa State University Master Gardener program winter webcasts in county extension offices around the state begin in February. Topics for the series were chosen based on current issues and Master Gardener volunteer interest and include Iowa weather, bringing kids to the garden, and exploring the Ada Hayden Herbarium. More information is available on the Master Gardener website.