Animal U for youth-directed learning

John Lawrence’s message from March 16, 2020

COVID-19 updates

  • Continue to check the campus safety page for updated information about the COVID-19 outbreak and Iowa State’s response. We’ve also added the link to our Disaster Recovery page, accessible from the ISU Extension and Outreach homepage.
  • Our Annual Conference will be virtual on April 1. See my message from March 11. Also, please remember to cancel your hotel reservations. Council members and staff who haven’t previously registered: Do consider registering for the virtual conference. Information will be added to the conference website as details are confirmed.
  • My recent COVID-19 updates for all staff, faculty and council members have been archived on the Office of the Vice President website. Topics include ISU student use of Wi-Fi, employee leave, instate travel and cancellations. Continue watching for updates from me.

Did you know?

Whether at home, in the barn or even out in the pasture, 4-H youth can log on to Animal U and become better caretakers for animals. Through this online gaming platform, youth direct their own learning to gain knowledge and skills that apply to their livestock projects. Did you know?

  • ISU Extension and Outreach and the Department of Animal Science developed Animal U, a program that is intended for use nationwide. Amy Powell, extension youth animal science specialist, manages the project, which is a collaboration of extension subject matter experts, faculty members, commodity groups and industry partners.
  • Animal U is designed to connect more young people to animal agriculture, whether they have or don’t have an animal of their own. They learn about the relationship between animal agriculture and the science and technology that supports it in everyday life. In addition, they learn about potential careers associated with food production.
  • Animal U is open to everyone now. After May 1 it will be available to Iowa 4-H at no cost and to other states by subscription. The long-term goal is to extend it nationwide to 4-H partners and schools across the country. For more information, contact Amy Powell,

Internal Communications update

In 2019, our Internal Communications Task Force recommended that we develop a method for crisis communications. In addition, Iowa State did an internal audit of our processes, which recommended we establish a social media crisis communications plan. (Our previous crisis communications plan – yes, we did have one – was established in 2017 but did not reference social media.)

No two situations are alike, and it would be impossible for us to anticipate every situation. However, our new crisis communications plan will help staff recognize a crisis situation or event, take the first steps in the process and bring together the appropriate people as the crisis management team. The plan leaves room to investigate the individual crisis and determine the best course of action. You can find the plan on MyExtension under the Advancement tab, then navigate to “Guidelines and How-Tos.”

More notes

  • Please review the March program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • Goodbye … and welcome, February 2020: Please review this list of individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach in the past month, as well as those who have joined our organization.
  • The March 9 Second Monday Live archive is available. The session covered Annual Conference, our new crisis communication plan, a webinar on Human Sciences’ new block map and Animal U.
  • If you want to be the first county to transition to the new website platform, enter the contest by March 27. (EIT has extended the deadline.) The winner will be announced at our virtual Annual Conference, April 1. Featured publications will feed into specific pages in the new platform and county content editors will be able to choose which publications to feature on their own sites. The new platform also will make it easier to share news articles between counties and the ISU Extension and Outreach homepage.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

February 2020 goodbye … and welcome

In February, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Summer Beery, Sioux County K-3 program coordinator.
  • Katlyn Fell, Winnebago County youth coordinator.
  • Tina Gress, Crawford County program coordinator.
  • Melanie Jacobs, Buchanan County youth coordinator.
  • Kristine Labertew, Warren County office assistant.
  • Linda Severson, Winnebago County office assistant.
  • Sarah Zwiefel, Wright County outreach and marketing coordinator.
  • Darwin Miller, Hardin County extension administrator (retirement).
  • John Flickinger, budget officer I, Office of the Vice President (retirement).

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Riley Bodley, Allamakee County summer program assistant.
  • Olivia Brcka, Cerro Gordo youth program assistant.
  • Alexis Hooper, Boone County director.
  • Lisa Jones, West Pottawattamie receptionist.
  • Annemarie Litterer, Floyd County program coordinator.
  • Josey Nolan, Howard County youth coordinator.
  • Kevin Pottebaum, Woodbury County public relations and communications coordinator.
  • Kaleena Middendorf, program assistant II, Conference Planning and Management.

March 2020 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences + Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Twenty-nine projects involving 30 counties across Iowa will receive Growing Together Mini-Grants through ISU Extension and Outreach’s SNAP-Education. This is the fifth year mini-grant funds have been made available to Master Gardener volunteers, resulting in more than 300,000 pounds of produce being donated in communities across the state. The projects are focused on increasing food security and promoting healthy food access. See the full list of projects awarded.

More Human Sciences

  • During federal fiscal year 2019, Kids in the Kitchen had the following reach and results:
    – Served 1,194 youth in EFNEP-funded counties (Black Hawk, Boone and Polk). This is the highest youth reach since implementation began.
    – 69% of K-2-age children improved knowledge in choosing foods consistent with Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
    – 90% of children in grades 3-5 improved knowledge in choosing foods consistent with Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • David Brown, behavioral health state specialist, provided farm stress related programs recently at the Iowa Farmers Union Annual Conference, the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives Winter Meetings, the Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference, and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers Conference.
  • Christine Hradek, program manager, and Nicole Leidal, Family Nutrition Program assistant, presented at Mary Greeley Medical Center’s Grand Rounds in January. They highlighted ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition education programs and the opportunities to partner with physicians to support positive patient outcomes when lifestyle changes are indicated.

More Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Team created a new toolkit to help small farmers and specialty crop producers better track their marketing costs. The Market-Based Enterprise Budgets Toolkit contains sample marketing budgets for 10 crops or enterprises and allows producers to enter and track their numbers. Currently vegetable, flower and herb transplants; asparagus; high tunnel mixed greens, greenhouse basil; greenhouse butterhead; high tunnel tomato; green beans; sweet pepper; scallions and carrots are available as downloadable Excel workbooks, which allows producers to enter and track their numbers.
  • ANR specialists are making an impact through social media, which continues to be an influential platform for the agricultural industry as a whole and here in Iowa. Many Iowans are looking for a fast, easy way to collect and share information with others in their industry and community. ANR extension specialists and teams have showed up and people have noticed. Overall, the 121 ANR accounts have 91,932 followers, collectively, on these platforms: Twitter, 63,207; Facebook, 19,481; Instagram, 4,067; YouTube/Vimeo, 4,480; and Pinterest, 697.

4-H Youth Development

  • Current Enrollment in the 2020 4-H Camera Corps is 174 youth representing 68 counties. Iowa 4-H sent eight youth participants to the National 4-H Photography Summit in late February. 4-H youth are invited to participate in the Professional Photographers of Iowa Winter Convention on March 29 in Cedar Rapids. Youth attendees will learn about college and career opportunities in photography as well as participate in workshops on competitions, tradeshows, lighting, action photography and posing for senior and wedding/couple photography.
  • Ten Healthy Living teen ambassadors and five adult chaperones recently returned from the National 4-H Youth Summit on Healthy Living. During the experience, youth leaders engage with other youth and adult partners from across the country, take in the latest information and resources regarding healthy living curriculum and youth led initiatives, and leave with an impactful experience and motivation to lead initiatives back at home to help make the healthy choice the easy choice for local communities. The Iowa youth are developing a project to address the issue of vaping; raising awareness and providing education to help teens and families make healthier decisions.

Community and Economic Development

  • In March the 2020 Community Visioning Program is conducting transportation assets and barriers workshops in Elkader, Lost Nation, Avoca, Bedford and Treynor. Bioregional assessment meetings will take place in Fairfax and Wellsburg.
  • Introduction to Planning and Zoning for Local Officials workshops introduce basic principles of land use planning and development management to elected officials, planning and zoning officials, and board of adjustment members without formal training in the subjects. During March workshops will be conducted in Iowa City, Clear Lake, Sioux City, Ankeny and Okoboji.
  • Certified Professional Guide Training was created by CED staff and volunteers who lead guided programs at Iowa’s cities and tourism attractions, including museums, nature areas, agritourism and historic sites. The one-day workshop features methods and techniques for creating and delivering dynamic guided programs, with a focus on adult visitors. The next workshop takes place March 25 at Honey Creek Resort near Moravia.
  • During March Leading Communities programs will take place in Mount Pleasant, Chickasaw County, and Sac County.
  • CED specialist Kameron Middlebrooks will be in Des Moines for Master Business Bootcamp graduation, overseeing the graduation of 18 participants from the spring 2020 cohort in partnership with the Evelyn K. Davis Center and the Financial Empowerment Network. Master Business Bootcamp is a six-week course that reinforces essential skills necessary to own, manage, grow and operate small businesses. The free program targets minority populations with low-to-moderate income; however, it is open to any small-business owners.

Parenting science rooted in reality

John Lawrence’s message from March 9, 2020

Do you have parenting questions? Science of Parenting has answers based on research and real-life experience. Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has been sharing the Science of Parenting for several years, but starting March 12, they’re adding a new podcast to their collection of resources for helping parents make informed decisions for their families. Did you know?

  • Human sciences specialists Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson, parenting educators who are parents themselves, talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide parenting decisions. Mackenzie DeJong produces the podcast and Barbara Dunn Swanson provides research and writing.
  • The first season of the weekly podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms and releases on Thursdays, March 12 to May 28. Once per month, the podcast hosts will appear on Facebook Live (noon to 12:45 p.m.); viewers can submit questions in advance to Facebook or Twitter @scienceofparent or by email to
  • The Science of Parenting website,, also will be relaunching with a new design. Blog posts and resource links provide additional parenting information.

The Science of Parenting continues to address today’s hot topics in parenting and provides research-based information that fits your family.

Annual Conference update

Join us at Annual Conference on Wednesday, April 1, as we look at how our personal success as extension professionals keeps us on track for building a #StrongIowa, where all Iowans benefit. Check out the agenda and register today. Early bird registration ($75) ends March 16 at 5 p.m. Then registration increases to $85.

  • The festivities begin on Tuesday, March 31 with our Awards Ceremony and Reception. Join us from 4-6:30 p.m. at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center to honor our colleagues’ accomplishments and length of service.
  • Our conference day starts April 1 with registration at 8 a.m. at the Scheman Building. We’ll hear from two highly recommended speakers and choose from 11 breakout sessions on a variety of professional development topics.
  • Several high-quality prizes will be raffled off at the end of the day, including two Fitbits, two Fire HD tablets, one set of Apple AirPods, and an iPad. And yes, you must be present to win.
  • After the conference, those interested may attend one of two optional sessions: 1) ISU Benefits as a County Employee and 2) Ready to Retire from ISU? Five Things to Know First (for ISU-paid employees). Registration for these sessions is not required.
  • Annual Conference is open to everyone in ISU Extension and Outreach. Councils, please consider closing your office or having someone fill in for the day so that all ISU Extension and Outreach staff members can attend.

More notes

  • 2020 Census update: The fact sheet “2020 Census: You Count” now is available in both English and Spanish. See the Indicators website for these materials and many other Census-related resources.
  • Applications will be accepted from March 9 until May 15 for the summer 2020 Vice President for Extension and Outreach Tuition Assistance Program. County-paid and ISU-paid extension employees may apply for the program, whether taking credit courses from Iowa State, a community college, a private institution or other accredited public institution.
  • The Iowa Extension Council Association conference, Focus for Success, is March 28 in Ames. Council members and extension professionals are invited, and the early bird registration deadline is March 18. Staff who would like to share their programs and showcase services at the conference’s idea fair should register their displays by March 15.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Harnessing data to improve communities

John Lawrence’s message from March 2, 2020

This summer five Iowa communities, working with Iowa State students and researchers, will be harnessing local data and putting it to work to solve local issues. That’s the goal of Data Science for the Public Good. ISU Extension and Outreach is a partner in this effort, which currently is seeking community proposals that support the public good, rural prosperity and economic mobility. Did you know?

  • Students will lead the projects, which will run from May 18 to July 24 and be headquartered at the Social Analytics Laboratory in the ISU Department of Sociology.
  • The deadline is March 31 for extension specialists to submit proposals on behalf of communities. Proposals must identify a pressing local issue that could be informed by data, as well as the community benefits from solving the issue. Local leaders and/or city managers must be willing to engage in the project.
  • This 2020 effort builds upon results of a 2018 pilot in Marshalltown, which led to a data-driven framework for improving the community’s public transportation system.
  • If you would like to learn more, watch the webinar that describes what Data Science for the Public Good is and how you can apply.

The ISU Extension and Outreach team member is Chris Seeger, professor of landscape architecture and extension specialist. For more information about whether a community project idea qualifies or is suitable, contact the DSPG team at

More notes

  • 2020 ISU Day at the Capitol is March 5. ISU Extension and Outreach is a partner in this event that is highlighting opportunities to “Innovate at Iowa State.”
  • Our next Second Monday Live is 10 a.m., March 9 at Topics include brief updates on Annual Conference, our new crisis communication plan, and an upcoming webinar about Human Sciences’ new block map that aligns with the new regions of Structured for Success. In addition, Amy Powell, 4-H animal science program specialist, will discuss the rollout of Animal U. Links to the Second Monday Live archives can be found in MyExtension.
  • Beginning Oct. 1, 4-H Youth Development will realign field teams in response to the new regions of Structured for Success, as shown on this new 4-H field team map in MyExtension. 4-H State Leader Debbie Nistler reports that the new map is the result of listening sessions and reflection with 4-H staff across the state. The new field team assignments are designed to be more geographically balanced and provide more opportunities for teamwork than previous alignments. Currently 4-H has five field program specialist vacancies. Debbie plans to fill three of the vacancies this year and the remaining two in 2021.
  • County offices: Remember to enter the contest to be the first county to transition to the new website platform. The entry deadline is March 18 and the winner will be announced at Annual Conference, April 1. The new county websites will be easy to navigate on desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices. The new sites also will allow you to feature your county social media accounts, as well as extension-wide social media links.
  • FYI: I am in Washington, D.C., with our Iowa delegates to the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching. Our citizen delegates are sharing Iowa State’s story with Congress. CARET advocates for greater national support and understanding of the land-grant university system’s food and agricultural research, extension, and teaching programs that enhance the quality of life for all people.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Pesticide safety for Iowans

Feb. 24, 2020, message from John Lawrence

ISU Extension and Outreach began offering pesticide safety education in 1976, when legislation first required applicators to be trained in the safe and effective use of pesticides. This program, which used to be delivered to our county offices by huge satellite dishes, now is distributed via Blu-ray discs. Technology isn’t the only thing that changes in our Pesticide Safety Education Program. Each year, the PSEP provides the latest information to keep all Iowa applicators up to date on current pesticide safety and pest management. Did you know?

  • Our PSEP provides Continuing Instruction Course (CIC) recertification programs that cover a variety of topics, including laws and regulations, personal protective equipment, pesticide labels, safe application techniques, storage and handling, protecting sensitive areas such as groundwater, non-target sites and pollinators, and pests and pest management.
  • During the 2018-2019 season, PSEP held 278 programs across Iowa that educated 13,831 private applicators with the help of field agronomists and county extension staff. Last year 11,198 commercial applicators attended a CIC recertification program.

CIC programs are offered throughout the year in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. PSEP also is involved in integrated pest management, worker protection, environmental quality and agricultural health.

More notes

  • Congratulations to 12 extension professionals who will be honored at the ISU 25 Year Club banquet on March 2. Reaching 25 years of continuous service during calendar year 2019 are Patricia Gibler, Patrick O’Malley, Vicki Speake and Richard Wrage. Reaching 35 years are Richard Jauron, Christine Knight-Gipe, Jane Hayes-Johnk, Jerolyne Packer, David Stender, Jill Weber and Jeanne Wiebke. Donna Donald will be honored for reaching 45 years of continuous service this year.
  • The archive of the 2020 Census webinar (from Feb. 11) is available. In the coming months you may get questions about the Census or you may have the opportunity to educate people about it. A video, handouts and other helpful materials are available from the Indicators website.
  • On Feb. 28 from noon-1 p.m. you can join Human Sciences’ Acts of Kindness Celebration on Zoom to share and celebrate all the acts of kindness that were completed during the month. You’ll also find out who wins the grand prize – an assortment of homemade/specialty items from our Human Sciences community. For more information contact
  • Registration is open for our 2020 Annual Conference, Wednesday, April 1. You’ll find plenty of professional development, inspiration and networking as we celebrate successes and make progress toward our personal and professional goals. Some breakout sessions have attendance caps, so register soon. Annual Conference is open to everyone in ISU Extension and Outreach. Please join us.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach is part of the Extension Disaster Education Network, which focuses on reducing the impact of disasters through education. Extension safety specialist Chuck Schwab is our EDEN contact. EDEN is asking extension professionals to respond to the Extension Disaster Needs Assessment Survey, at Please respond by the end of February. Your input will help EDEN draft the request for proposals for their competitive grant program for developing new or updating existing resources.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

MyData and county websites

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 17, 2020

In ISU Extension and Outreach, it’s everybody’s job to create and share the value and impact of our work. This job will get easier and more accurate as we roll out MyData. This centralized system soon will become the way we collect and report information about our programs, educational contacts, partnerships, client relationships and outcomes. Did you know?

  • In September 2017 a steering committee began developing one reporting system for our organization. After considering many options, the committee decided the best approach was to create our own system with Salesforce.
  • In April 2019 MyData was ready for pilot testing. Folks in Carroll, Franklin, Monroe, Muscatine and Polk counties and on campus have been not only “kicking the tires” of MyData, but also trying to crash it. They are helping us build a stronger system, so if you have the opportunity, thank them for their efforts. The pilot ends in June.
  • From October 2020 through September 2021, we’ll do online and face-to-face training and rollout to our organization. Program directors will set the timelines for their staff and faculty to participate, and Andrea Nelson, assistant vice president for county services, will set the timelines for counties. (Timelines will be staggered to accommodate various annual schedules for professional development.) Please continue using your current reporting system until you are added to the rollout.
  • Then in October 2021 all staff and faculty with programmatic evaluation and reporting responsibility will use MyData for reporting inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts.
  • MyData will be our official reporting system for internal and external reports. Beginning with annual performance reviews in spring 2022, if it isn’t in MyData, it didn’t happen.

Stay informed about MyData so you will be ready for training and rollout to your program area, county or unit. (You can review my comments about MyData from the Feb. 10 Second Monday Live archive.) We collect, handle and report data to tell our story, so our data must be accurate to tell our story well. We must be accountable – to the university, the statehouse, our federal partners and our clients and stakeholders in every county.

In other news, county offices have until March 18 to enter a contest to be the first county to transition to the new Drupal 8 county website platform. The winner will be announced at Annual Conference, April 1. With this upgrade, our websites will help us better serve our clients. Did you know?

  • The new county websites will be accessible from the ground up. They will be tested prior to going live to ensure they meet all accessibility standards.
  • A new search feature allows for both county site only and extension-wide searches. (You can try out this feature on the Extension IT site.)
  • Due to the implementation of MyData, there will not be a new extension calendar at this time. However, a new staff directory will feed staff profiles into websites, meaning each staff member will have only one profile to maintain.

We’ll have more updates on the county website transition in the coming weeks.

More notes

  • Goodbye … and welcome, January 2020: Please review this list of individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach in the past month, as well as those who have joined our organization.
  • The Feb 10 Second Monday Live archive is available. The session covered the Master Conservationist program and MyData.
  • IECA and 4-H Legislative Day is Feb. 19 in Des Moines. Extension council members and senior 4-H members will meet with legislators and hear from the governor, tour the World Food Prize building, network and participate in educational activities.
  • Join Cyndi Wiley, Iowa State’s digital accessibility coordinator, for The Art of Creating Effective Alt Text, Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. Connect online. The recording from the January webinar is available on MyExtension.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

January 2020 goodbye and welcome

In January, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Angela Ayala, Dallas County program assistant.
  • Richard Anderson, accountant II, Extension Distribution Center.
  • Kim Brantner, field specialist II, Human Sciences.
  • Willy Klein, food and environment specialist, Advancement.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Kathy Tobin, Clinton County office assistant.
  • Sarah Tanis, Black Hawk County youth nutrition and 4-H outreach.
  • Madeleine Bretey, Dickinson County youth coordinator.
  • Loran Sneller, Ringgold County youth coordinator.
  • Kelsey Wiese, Carroll County youth coordinator.
  • Bobbi Finarty, Hardin County director.
  • Shawnee Oswald, Jones County office assistant.
  • Samantha Hasper, Warren County youth coordinator.
  • Hannah Offenburger, Lucas County office assistant.
  • Toni Wiese, Harrison County youth coordinator.
  • Hilary Emmerson, program assistant II, 4-H Youth Development.

Our internal communications progress

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 10, 2020

Nearly a year ago the Internal Communications Task Force delivered their findings at our Annual Conference. Since then the leadership team and I have been addressing their themes and recommendations. We provided an executive summary last April and updates over the past several months. Now it’s time for our first-year, internal communications progress report.

What we’re already implementing

  • We established the Vice President for Extension and Outreach Tuition Assistance Program to help our people move forward with their extension careers.
  • We initiated the county visit notification email protocol for systematically communicating when staff and faculty will be visiting a county – whether they are from campus, another region or the county next door.
  • We created a virtual suggestion box so you can share questions, comments and concerns at any time. Feedback is anonymous and confidential.
  • My new Office of the Vice President website is a public site for current news, updates and information on initiatives – providing easy access for our councils. In addition, a new MyExtension homepage is coming soon. It will become our “frontpage” for internal communication from leadership to staff.
  • We had engaging discussions during our first round of area-wide meetings in August and September. The next round will take place in fall 2020.
  • In September we held listening sessions on Structured for Success. We plan to hold listening sessions on other topics this year.
  • In January we began Second Monday Live. These monthly Adobe Connect sessions provide opportunities to connect with the leadership team. (Today’s February edition addressed the Master Conservationist Program and MyData, our forthcoming mandatory reporting system. Next week we’ll send the link for the archived session.)
  • Terry Maloy, Iowa Extension Council Association executive director, is invited to leadership team meetings once per month.
  • In January, County Services began the County Services Connection, a monthly newsletter directed to county staff, councils and regional directors.

What we’re working on

As we implement Structured for Success, we will be taking a close look at roles of field specialists, regional directors, county staff and councils. We want to clarify individual responsibilities for better accountability. The two-way scorecard is under development and will formalize these communications.

We are fully committed to improving our internal communications in ISU Extension and Outreach. This is a continuing process that is strengthening our organization so we can better serve Iowans and build a #STRONGIOWA.

More notes

  • Please review the February program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • Watch this video about why the census is important to Iowa and plan to participate in our 2020 Census webinar, Tuesday, Feb. 11, from noon to 1 p.m. at Learn what you need to know about how to ensure all Iowans are counted.
  • The Structured for Success final regional boundary map has been updated with all counties’ model choices.
  • The ISU Extension and Outreach 2019 Annual Report is available online as a webpage as well as an accessible PDF file. You can use the report to share how we support what Iowans value: #STRONGIOWA.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

February 2020 program update

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.

Human Sciences

  • 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.

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