Monthly Archives: July 2021

Camouflage and Fruit Kebabs

Week 11

Monday was a day filled with finishing our final report and preparing our lesson about insects for the Jane Boyd Community House on Tuesday. We were excited to see everything come together in the report and look forward to giving our final presentation next week. Make sure to watch us live Thursday, August 5 at 9 a.m. on our Rising Star Facebook page.  

“All about insects” was the topic of our lesson Tuesday at the Jane Boyd Community House. We discussed what characteristics make an insect including an exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax, abdomen), six legs, compound eyes, and a pair of antennae. Then the youth got to build their own insect out of several different colored pipe cleaners. We then hid the insects all around the playground. The youth had to find as many insects as they could within 30 seconds. The goal of this activity was to introduce the concept of camouflage and help the youth understand why insects use certain colors to blend in with their surroundings. We finished the lesson with a snack of “ants on a log”, which contained celery, Wowbutter, and raisins. 

Preparing ants on a log.

We started the day Wednesday, getting everything ready for our last program with the Creative Kids Company in Shellsburg. We are excited to do active BINGO with them as it has been a popular activity with our other program areas. Last week we divided our written report into sections for each of us to practice, and today we did the first run-through of our final presentation with our assigned parts. We are excited to polish and finalize our presentation and cannot wait to present it to everyone next Thursday. We spent the last part of our day we helped to organize the office. We organized all of the fair ribbons that were not handed out into bins and did a final count to estimate how many will be needed for next year.

Kids having fun completing the exercises on the BINGO cards.

Thursday: We woke up bright and early to meet with the Creative Kids Company in Shellsburg. The kids had fun explaining why physical activity is important and completing all of the different activities and exercises in active BINGO.We had a chance to explore our creative sides and were tasked with a final project of updating the bulletin board in the conference room. We decided on creating a supply board to have in the conference room that can hold pencils, pens, notepads, etc., and went with a black background with blue accents and burlap trim. We got out of the office for a bit and headed over to the local fabric store in Vinton to get all the supplies we needed and then set to work. Lots of progress was made, and we are hoping to have it finished up by next Wednesday. 

Strawberry and grape kebabs.

Today we finished our last program with Kids on Course University at Cleveland Elementary. We reviewed how to properly use kitchen knives and then made strawberry and grape fruit-kebabs by cutting and preparing fruit using kid-safe kitchen knives. For lunch, we had a small celebration highlighting the hard work of all of the interns and got Olive Garden to celebrate with the entire office. It is crazy to think we only have a few days left as Rising Star Interns, but we are very thankful for all of the fantastic experiences and opportunities we got to take part in along the way.

-Tatum and Maelyn

Sweat and Air Conditioning | Week 11 in Region 1

It has been a busy but less hectic week up here in northwest Iowa. I started out the week at the O’Brien County Fair in Primghar and ended the week getting some work done.

Salsa Scavenger Hunt

This week was salsa week at PoP Club! The kids first tried Salsa Fresca (you can find the recipe on ISU Extension’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart.). After trying the salsa, the kids had to go on a scavenger hunt around the farmers’ market to find the ingredients they thought were in the salsa. I put up pictures around the market of the ingredients since not all of the ingredients were in season yet. There were 5 ingredients that the kids needed to find. Most of the kids were able to find the first 3 ingredients, which were tomatoes, peppers, and onions. The last two were a little trickier. The kids struggled to identify the limes and garlic in the salsa.

Most of the kids enjoyed the salsa. I only had one child tell me that they didn’t like the salsa. I did have many kids say that they would have enjoyed the salsa better if it was blended. The Salsa Fresca was a chunky salsa and did not require any blending. I even had a child come up to my booth in Orange City and tell me that he didn’t like tomatoes. I asked if he wanted to try the salsa, and he said sure. I then proceeded to watch him eat a giant piece of tomato. He then told me that he liked the salsa! I found it a little humorous that he claimed to not like tomatoes, but he ended up liking them anyway. (I didn’t tell him that he just ate a tomato though, I think that may have made him change his mind).

I also had many new kids join PoP Club this week. After I explained to one of the new families what PoP Club is, the parent told me that their child did not eat vegetables. I offered my salsa to the child, he ate it, and he liked it. The parent first told me that they didn’t think he would eat it, but they were stunned when the child ate the salsa and liked it.

Fair Finale

I was at the O’Brien County Fair this week, which is the last fair in my region. On Monday, I set up the StoryWalk for families to do. On Tuesday, I did my last Dairy Detectives camp. Dairy Detectives was a free camp that kids of all ages could attend at the fair. The kids got to investigate the dairy industry and discover milk products.

The ice cream really hit the spot this week. It was a hot one at the fair. On Tuesday, it was in the upper 90s. It was so hot! I got so sweaty. We had to roll the ice cream balls a little bit longer since it was warmer, and the ice cream didn’t want to harden up. Once the ice cream was made, it didn’t take long to melt and return to the ice cream mixture.

After Dairy Detectives, I helped Kate Stewart, the O’Brien County K-12 Program Coordinator, set up her StoryWalk and weed her garden. Kate created a StoryWalk to lead the kids to the garden, where she has one of her summer camps. The kids can have a hands-on experience gardening and learn about gardening practices. It had just recently rained, and Kate and her campers have been unable to weed the garden. So naturally, there were a lot of weeds that needed to be pulled. I had some flashbacks to last summer when I would sit in the Rock Rapids Demonstration Garden and weed for hours under the scorching summer sun. But, it was over very soon, and I was able to return to my car’s air conditioning to take Bessie back to LeMars, IA, for the Plymouth County Fair.

Editing and Captioning

After spending two days at the O’Brien County Fair, I returned to the comforts of modern-day air conditioning to finished some projects. Does anyone remember the extension specialist videos that I recorded and were editing? Well, it was time to return to those. For a quick recap, I interviewed various extension specialists about their job, the resources they provide, and, in general, what they do. These videos will be used to inform the public about all of the resources that Extension provides and hopefully increase the number of people who use Extension resources.

So, I finally had some time after a long fair season to get back to this project.

Fun at Camp

Lastly, I had the opportunity to help one of the regional summer educators at 2 of her camps. Up here in northwest Iowa, we hire 3 people to run summer camps in 5 counties. I was able to help at the Paper Picasso camp, where kids got to make origami fish and dogs, as well as homemade cards and bookmarks.

The other camp I got to help at was Sew Fun! At this camp, kids learned how to thread a needle, a basic hand-sewing stitch, and they got to make 2 projects. This was a fun camp to help out at because I love sewing. Sewing is one of my hobbies and something I got very good at in 4-H. Fun fact, I almost double-majored in Ag Ed and Apparel Design. So, it was a lot of fun to teach something that I enjoy doing to a new generation and encourage them to, hopefully, continue sewing.

It has been a great week, and I can’t believe that next week will be my last week as a Rising Star Intern! Projects are starting to reach completion, and my car is slowly returning to normal (since the fair season started, my car has been full of Dairy Detectives, StoryWalk, and PoP Club supplies).

Until next week,


Fairs and Gardens | Week 10

Again, this past week has flown by so fast, especially since it was another fair week for me!

Mysterious Smells

It was herb week this past week at PoP Club! The kids had to identify different kinds of herbs based on their appearance, texture, and smell. In Sheldon, the herb selection included spearmint, basil, oregano, parsley, dill, cilantro, and sage. The kids were able to guess the mint and dill easily, but the others were harder. Many kids needed some verbal clues to help them out, which is understandable since identifying herbs can be very tricky. Many kids had never been exposed to fresh herbs because their parents buy dried herbs at the store.

After identifying the herbs, the kids had the opportunity to try some of the herbs they smelled that day. I made a homemade ranch dip that included dill and parsley. The kids were given a cucumber to try the dip with. Most of the kids enjoyed the dip and cucumber, with only 2 that were maybes. The maybes didn’t like sour cream, which was a main ingredient in the dip, so it is understandable.

Dairy Detectives

This week I did my Dairy Detectives Camp at the Lyon County Fair. I had to postpone the camp a couple of minutes due to the dairy show going longer than expected, which was no problem. Eventually, I did start the camp, even though the dairy show was still occurring (they were still doing showmanship when I started). We started out our day by talking about the difference between beef and dairy cows. Then, we took a field trip to the barn to see the dairy cows. The Lyon County kids had a different experience in the dairy barn than in the other counties. Since the dairy show was that morning, the fresh cows were still in the barn. For those of you who don’t know very much about the dairy industry, a fresh cow is a cow that is currently being milked, and a dry cow is a cow that is not currently producing milk. So, it was easier for the kids to understand what I was talking about. There were also guys in the barn milking their cows after the show. So, the kids watched the modern milking process and asked them questions about their cows. The guys were very excited to interact with the kids. After our trip to the dairy barn, we returned to the show arena to practice milking Bessie and to talk about milk processing. Each of the kids had to name a product that contains milk, and then they got to make homemade ice cream!

Return to the Garden!

I had the opportunity this week to return to the Rock Rapids Demonstration Garden to present at their annual garden tour. This is the garden where I spent many hours last summer, and I helped plant this summer. Every year during the fair, they give a tour to the public. First, the kids present what they have learned and done over the summer in the garden. Then, Dustin and I presented the informational tour of the donation garden. We talked about why we chose each plant to plant, explained some characteristics of each plant, and gave gardening advice. After the tour, Cheryl and I made salsa that featured some of the plants in the garden for spectators to taste. I also made some fruit-infused water to keep everyone hydrated since it was a scorching day. Everyone enjoyed the salsa and learned something new!

I also started writing my final report this week. Writing it really made it sink in that this experience is almost over, and soon I will be back on campus for classes. This definitely has been a fun summer, and I have had many great experiences! Next week, I will be at the O’Brien County Fair on Tuesday, July 27, for Dairy Detectives and their garden tour. Come see Bessie and me next week before she heads back home!

– Alex

Alex and Bessie

Splish, Splash, and Salsa

Week 10

Although there are only a couple more weeks left the Region 11 Rising Stars are finding plenty of ways to keep busy such as making salsa and glitter jars. 

We started our week heading to Walmart to get supplies for Splish Splash to-go kits. Splish Splash is another fun 4-H Clover Kid on the go lesson designed for kids in 3rd grade and below. We gathered our supplies from the office and Walmart and worked to put together all of our kits. In total, we made 250 to-go kits! We plan to hand these kits out on Wednesday at the Prairie Lunch Program. For an afternoon adventure, we headed on over to Hy-Vee. We gathered ingredients to make salsa, which we will be using during garden club at Jane Boyd.

Tuesday, we attended our weekly lesson at Jane Boyd Community House in Cedar Rapids, IA, to facilitate a lesson about knife safety and handling. We demonstrated how to hold a knife and cut vegetables correctly. Then the youth got their own kid-safe, plastic knife to practice cutting peppers and tomatoes. Afterward, we added their ingredients and cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and onion to make fresh salsa. They enjoyed getting to try the salsa that they helped make. In the afternoon, we handed out kits at the Rollin’ Recmobile. The kids enjoyed making calming glitter jars and took home some kits to make homemade ranch. 

We set out to Prairie Intermediate School on Wednesday to spend the first part of our day handing out the Splish Splash to-go kits to families there for the grab-and-go meal program. This was our last time handing out kits at this program. During our time spent at this site, we were able to hand out over 800 to-go kits. Our afternoon was spent editing our report and power-point. We hopped onto a zoom call with Cindy Gannon to review our written report and discuss details for our final presentation. This meeting was beneficial for us, and we are excited to share the impact we made in both counties. 

Handing out to-go kits at the Praire Lunch Program.

We traveled on over to Shellsburg, IA, Thursday morning to do another fun program with the Creative Kids Company. We had tons of fun making calming glitter jars with the kids and talking about mindfulness and how they can use their calming glitter jars when sad, nervous, angry, etc. We also practiced destressing through some fun yoga poses such as tree pose, warrior pose, and sun salutation. Everyone had tons of fun with this program and liked shaking and showing off their calming glitter jars at the very end. 

Friday, we had a great time traveling to Cleveland Elementary for our weekly lesson with Kids at Couse University. The lesson for this week was all about seeds. We taught the kids what cotyledon, monocot, and dicot mean, different parts of a seed, and different monocots and dicots, including corn and soybeans, respectively. We also gave them the chance to plant a dicot seed of their own and gave them a choice between watermelon and tomatoes. Next week we have our last program with Kids on Course University, so stay tuned!

-Tatum and Maelyn

BINGO and Bikes!

Week 9

This week was filled with a ton of fun programs and a chance to reflect on our summer with the start of our written report.

Saturday: Saturday started off as a rainy morning at the Uptown Marion Market. We were not sure if we were going to get any kids at the market to participate in PoP Club. Luckily the rain let up around 9 and it was only a matter of time before kids showed up to take part in all of the PoP Club fun. The activity for this market was fruit thumbprint bookmarks. Everyone enjoyed getting to press their thumb into the ink pad to make thumbprints on their bookmarks which they then turned into various fruits such as apples, strawberries, and cherries. The tasting for this week included a strawberry spinach salad. All of the kids loved the strawberries but some were a little hesitant to try the spinach. Many kids found creative ways to try both together including little spinach wraps where they wrapped a spinach leaf around the strawberry. It was such a wonderful time to see both new and old faces all excited to take part in PoP Club. We cant wait to help plan for the next Uptown Marion Market on August 14th!

We got the chance to travel to Shellsburg, IA on Monday for our first program with the Creative Kids Company. We helped the kids learn about planting seeds, what seeds need to grow, and all about the different layers of soil with our popular soil cup activity. Everyone had a great time planting their M&M “seed” and many of the kids even pretended they were planting different seeds such as corn, tomatoes, and blueberries. While the kids enjoyed eating their “soil cups” we read to them the creative and funny story, Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. We can’t wait to return to Shellsburg next week to teach the kids about mindfulness with our calming glitter jar activity. 

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent preparing for upcoming activities in Linn and Benton Counties. We made a quick trip to Hy-Vee to pick up ingredients for the smoothies we will make Friday with the KOC students. In Benton County, we got ready for Active BINGO at Happy Time at Tilford Elementary and prepared Calming Glitter Jar Kits to take to Creative Kids Company next week. We also had time to begin our final written report. It is sad for us to think that we are just a few weeks away from our internship wrapping up. 

We spent the morning in Benton County preparing our calming glitter jar activity and talking with the Benton County fair intern, Shelby, as it was her last day in the office. In the afternoon, we traveled to Tilford Elementary to do our last program with Happy Time. Today’s activity was all about the importance of physical activity. We first talked about how physical activity can be good for our bodies and then discussed how we like to stay active, such as gymnastics, soccer, and basketball. The kids also had a lot of fun getting to move around with Active BINGO, and many of them tried spot tag for the first time, which is like regular tag but with a bit of a twist. We started with activity dice with the preschoolers to get some energy in them after nap time, and then we talked all things carrots. We read Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, tried some baby carrots, and then had a fantastic time making carrots out of pipe cleaners for them to take home. 

Friday was a blast, as we spent the morning at Cleveland Elementary in Cedar Rapids, IA making smoothies with the blender bike. We talked about what goes into a smoothie and why it is healthy to eat. Our ingredients included mixed fruit, bananas, ice, spinach, and oat milk. The students were nervous to try the smoothies because they contained spinach, but we assured them they would taste like fruit. Then, each of the students loved having the opportunity to blend up their smoothies while riding the blender bike. Afterward, they got to taste test the smoothies they made. Most of the children said they tasted great and asked for more.

Tatum helping the kids with the blender bike.

Catch us next week with more exciting programs!

-Tatum and Maelyn

Fair Frenzy | Week 9 in Region 1

Fair Season is officially underway here in northwest Iowa! This past week I have spent most of my days away from my computer at the Osceola and Sioux County Fairs.

Tell me my Fortune!

Do you remember that paper fortune teller game that we used to play in elementary school? This week we put a PoP Club spin on that game and made Veggie Fortune Tellers! The kids had to come up with a fruit or vegetable to represent each color on the handout. The kids used markers, crayons, and stickers to draw the produce in the corresponding squares. Now, the kids can play a game to determine what vegetable or fruit they are going to eat that day. They can also help their parents or guardians make meals with this game. This can make kids more willing to eat produce because they can have a say in what they eat each day. The kids enjoyed making the fortune-tellers and were excited to try them out. Many of the kids had never made these before, so the tradition continues on because of PoP Club!

The kids also got to try fresh green beans this week. The majority of the kids enjoyed the beans, with only a few disliking them.

Fair Fun!

On Monday, I got to be a comment writer for static exhibit judging in Osceola County. I also got to judge working exhibits in Sioux County on Wednesday, and I judged Herdsmanship in Osceola County on Thursday.

I also set up my StoryWalk at both the Osceola and Sioux County Fairs. So far, many people have participated in it and they are enjoying the self-guided tour of the animal barns as they read the book.

Lastly, I did two Dairy Detectives camps this week, one at each fair. I had to modify my activity at the Sioux County Fair due to the rain, but we still had a blast. We started our camp by talking about the difference between dairy and beef (meat) cattle. Then, we went to the dairy barn to talk about dairy cows and the dairy industry, while observing the dairy cows. After that, we talked about the milking process and the kids got to try milking a model dairy cow. After that, we talked about the pasteurization and homogenization process, and identify products that have milk in them. We finished our camp by making homemade ice cream.

Thank you to the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance for letting us borrow Bessie and for giving us cow hats!

It’s also not fair week if your car isn’t fully packed for your activities!

I will also be on the radio at noon on Friday, July 16 on KICD FM 107.7 to talk about my internship this summer!

Next week I will be at the Lyon County Fair. Stop on over on Tuesday at noon for Dairy Detectives and meet Bessie!


Soccer, peach fuzz, blender bikes, fair, and more! Week 7 & 8 update.

Hello! I’m back with some updates on what I’ve been up to. It has been another crazy few weeks, but I’m having a blast!

Week 7

Did you know that you can blend food with a bike? Well, you can! And it is FUN! Monday, I went to Lincoln Elementary Summer School in Mt. Pleasant. We read a book about eating tomatoes, the kids then were able to choose what they wanted to put in salsa and we made it with the blender bike. The kids loved the bike and were amazed by it. My favorite salsa was by the 3rd grade, who decided to put mango in their salsa. So yummy! 

Then in the afternoon, I traveled to Columbus Junction to the Soccer For Success camp at the elementary school. It is great to see how the kids are improving in their skills and learning about healthy eating. 

Have you ever painted with marbles? Well, it is possible! Tuesday, I went to the Mediapolis Library program in Des Moines County. We read a book all about colors. The library made the book a story walk and put the pages in the windows all throughout the storefronts in town. The kids then were able to paint with marbles to discover the different colors and patterns they could make. None of them had ever painted with marbles and it was a hit.

In the afternoon, I traveled to Columbus Junction to the Soccer For Success camp at the elementary school. The kids are learning all about the colors of fruits and vegetables. They are also learning about the difference between fruits and vegetables. For soccer skills, they are learning to pass the ball and how to properly kick the ball further to prevent injury. At camp, they get to play all sorts of different games involving soccer to improve their skills and have fun. 

Wednesday, I went to Soccer For Success camp at the elementary school again. Then on Thursday, I went to Soccer For Success camp at the elementary school. The kids had a few new games they got to play and they learned how to do a scissors kick. They loved learning this new move and had a great time trying to perfect it!

In the evening, I traveled to the Jefferson Street Farmers’ Market in Burlington where we host PoP Club. This week was all about pollinators. The kids got to try peaches and cherries, which were so good! It was quite the experience for some who had never had fresh peaches or cherries before. Some didn’t know what to think of the fuzz on the peaches or the pits in the cherries! They then read a book about pollinators and then got a honey cookie with powdered sugar on top that they used to “pollinate” a fake flower. The honey cookies were so good and went along well with the pollinator theme (since bees are so important!). The kids were also able to play a matching game about different pollinators (insects, birds, bats, etc.) and what particular plants they pollinate. It is great to see all the fresh produce that the kids are buying with their tokens and trying new fruits and vegetables. 

Friday I went to Lee County and we made the story walk boards for the upcoming fair. The book is about a dairy farm and is very educational and interesting for both kids and their parents. It was fun using the Cricut and learning the whole process to create these boards. They turned out great! I am eager to use these at fairs and see families reading and enjoying the story walk!

Week 8

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a fun and safe 4th of July holiday! I know I got a sunburn, but enjoyed the long weekend! 

On Tuesday, we had the last Mediapolis Library Program for the summer. The kids read a book about a cat making pizza to learn about layers and collages in art. They then were able to make their own collage by cutting out pictures in magazines that they felt represented their interests. The kids did great and had a blast looking for what they thought fit their personalities. Since it was the last day of the program, we had pizza for the snack which went perfectly with the theme of layers since pizza has layers! Of course, the kids loved this snack! 

In the afternoon, I traveled to Columbus Junction for the last week of Soccer For Success camp at the elementary school. The kids learned about the grain food group. They also got to learn some new games that they really enjoyed. They continued to improve immensely in their soccer skills. 

Wednesday and Thursday I went to Soccer For Success camp at the elementary school. It was my last day at the camp and it was a little bittersweet to say goodbye to the kids that I had been coaching for the past month. I just hope that they will remember everything they learned about soccer and make healthy eating choices in the future now that they learned all about it! 

Thursday evening, I went to the Jefferson Street Farmers’ Market to host PoP Club. The kids got to try purple carrots (yes I said purple). Some of the kids were hesitant to try a purple carrot since they had never seen one before. And some were eager to try such a bizarre-looking carrot! We also had a scavenger hunt bingo activity for the kids. They had a bingo card that made them go all over the market to find different items. If they got a bingo, they got a prize. The prizes were snap pea-shaped pop-its (a fidget toy that’s really popular with kids). The kids had a blast with the scavenger hunt. 

Friday I got to go to my first fair of the summer. It was kid’s day at the Lee County Fair. There were all sorts of activities for the kids and a ton of free goodies! A lot of the activities were centered around safety. Brooke (Lee County’s summer intern) and I had a booth teaching kids about sunscreen and UV rays. At our booth, kids could make a UV bead bracelet that changes colors from the UV rays. We stressed the importance of sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun’s UV rays. They loved seeing how the beads changed colors. I think the kids thoroughly enjoyed watching a helicopter landing that they got to check out and learn about. We also had the story walk boards up for the entire fair for families to enjoy every day. Overall, it was a great day at the fair and they had great weather! And I got my corndog, so it was a great day!! 

I had a great couple of weeks and I’m excited for the other three county fairs coming up! Have a great week and come back to get an update on what I’m up to!


Plants and Paint | Week 8 in Region 1

It may have been a holiday at the beginning of the week, but there is no time for breaks here in northwest Iowa!

Veggie Painting!

This week at PoP Club, the kids had the opportunity to decorate canvas bags with fresh produce! They dipped broccoli, potatoes, lemons, and apples in paint and used them as stamps on their canvas bags. These bags they can bring back every week to the Farmers’ Market to carry their tokens and produce that they buy home. The kids loved the activity. But, some of the stamps did not turn out the best on every bag. We learned that there is a correct amount of paint that you need to put on the vegetables and fruit for the design to turn out right. If there is too much or too little paint, then the design will not be seen.

The kids also got to try some new vegetables while they were at PoP Club! In Orange City, the kids got to try radishes. These went over better than I thought they were going to. I was trying to avoid giving the kids radishes because they are spicy, but there wasn’t that much produce at the market this past week. This was the vegetable that the most kids disliked, but I was surprised at the number of kids who enjoyed the radish. In Sheldon, the kids got to try kohlrabi. Many of the kids had never had this vegetable or heard of it before, so it was a new experience for them. Overall, most of the kids enjoyed the kohlrabi. Some said they maybe liked it. There were even some kids that used their PoP Club tokens to buy kohlrabi, and they never had it before!

We even had a visitor this week at Orange City PoP Club! Yes, you are looking at that correctly. It is a chicken….in a stroller.

Crops, Herbicides, Pests, and Buffers

Along with my degree in Ag Ed, I am also working towards a minor in Agronomy at Iowa State. On Wednesday, our agronomy specialist, Joel DeJong, hosted his annual Field Day event at the Northwest Iowa Research Farm. I had the opportunity to attend with the Region 1 director, Cheryl Heronemus. We spent the morning listening to speakers and driving around the farm to look at their experiment stations. There were many speakers there that day, including ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Dr. Daniel Robinson, ISU Extension and Outreach Entomologist Erin Hodgson, ISU Extension and Outreach Weed Specialists Prashant Jha, and ISU Ag and Biosystems Engineering Professor Matt Helmers. I learned about pest management strategies for corn rootworm and soybean gall midget, integrated weed management strategies, and edge-of-field practices for nitrate reduction. Some of what we talked about went over my head, but most of it was very understandable. It was a good day, and I learned a lot of new things. I even got to catch up with Dawn Henderson, the previous Horticulture Specialist in northwest Iowa. I got to work with her last year, so it great to briefly chat with her.

Fair Frenzy

This week I added my finishing touches to my Fair StoryWalk and fair activity. The StoryWalk will be available at the Sioux County Fair starting next week Monday (July 12), and it will be available at the Osceola County Fair on Tuesday (July 13). I will also be doing my activity, Dairy Detectives, on July 14 at the Sioux County Fair and July 15 at the Sioux County Fair. If you are in the area, make sure to stop by for fun and ice cream!

Anyway, it has been a crazy week with last-minute fair preparations, but it has sure flown by fast!

Until next week,


Super Composters and Super Heros

Week 8

This week was spent composting, creating superheroes, trying new foods, and practicing being calm using glitter.

We started our week on Tuesday morning at the Jane Boyd Community House. The lesson this week was all about composting. We discussed what composting is and how compost can improve the soil of their garden. To show the kids everyday items that can be composted, we made a compost jar that included grass clippings, twigs, soil, leaves, and newspapers. Yup, that’s right, all of these items can be composted! For our snack, we had clementines, which all of the kids loved! Did you know that fruit peels can also be composted? Instead of throwing away their fruit peels, each kid got a chance to add their fruit peel to the compost jar. We asked the kids to make predictions of what they think will happen to the height of the contents in the jar, and many said that the height would decrease. Check back in 2 weeks to see if they are right. We also showed the kids some other items that can be composted, recycled, and items that needed to be thrown away, and then the kids were able to review and test their knowledge in a relay. Each group was split into two teams, and the objective of the relay was to correctly sort their objects into the designated compost, trash, or recycling piles the fastest. Afterward, we reviewed each team’s piles to see how well they did at remembering. The kids had a great time with this activity, and we learned about a lot of objects that can go to other places besides the trash. With our extra time, we headed out to see the garden’s progress and were excited to find that a pepper was starting to grow on one of the plants. The kids explored the garden and were also able to watch as we added some previously made compost to each of the beds.

Wednesday morning, Linn County intern, Abagail, took professional headshots of us in our ISU Extension & Outreach, red polos. We were excited to be the models for her first time taking professional headshots. Over lunch, we traveled to Prairie Creek Intermediate School to hand out Super-U to-go kits at the weekly lunch pick-up. Super-U is an activity where students watch a video explaining the definition of a hero, think about heroes in their own communities, and then design their own superhero that can “fly” down a string. Each of the 200 children that received kits were excited to take them home and get started. Our afternoon was spent preparing activities for Friday and Saturday. We made over 80 glitter jar kits to take to Kids on Course (KOC) University on Friday. Each one was complete with a clear water bottle, glitter, glue, and instructions about how to be mindful. We also got everything gathered for PoP Club on Saturday at the Uptown Marion Market. The activity of the month is creating thumbprint strawberry and apple bookmarks and trying spinach, strawberry, apple salad. Be sure to catch us this Saturday, July 10th at the corner of 8th Avenue and 12th Street in Marion, IA for PoP Club! We hope to see you there!

Trying out the Super-U to-go kits.

Thursday was a blast as Happy Time students came to us for a tour of the Vinton Youth Garden and Old School Produce. Each child was engaged as we moved through the gardens and identified over 30 species of herbs and produce. One of the biggest hits was when the kids got to sample green beans, red raspberries, and kohlrabi from the garden. After our tour, we had an activity for the kids to make “FrankenPlants”. First, we talked about how we eat all parts of different plants including roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. As a group, we brainstormed what vegetables fit into each of those categories. Some examples included peas as seeds, carrots as roots, lettuce as leaves, broccoli as flowers, peppers as fruits, and celery as stems. The kids then had the task of drawing a “FrankenPlant” or human made out of plants. They had to use one plant from each of the groups to create their person. The kids were very proud of their artwork!

On Friday, we had our weekly Kids On Course (KOC) University lesson about healthy living. This weeks lesson was focused on being mindful using a glitter jar. First we thought about how our bodies feel when we are sad or angry. Students then enjoyed creating their own glitter jars. We finished out the lessons by using the glitter jars to practice calming ourselves down and compared how our bodies felt after we were calm with before the activity. Many of the 63 students said they could tell a different in how they felt and were excited to add the glitter jar to their mindfulness toolbox. 

One of the glitter jars made today.

We will catch you next week with many more exciting activities in Linn and Benton Counties!
-Tatum & Maelyn

A Surplus of Seeds

Week 7

This week was spent investigating seeds, going on a journey with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and playing active bingo.

After the Benton County Fair last week, the office was fairly quiet on Monday. We used this down time to plan for the week. For lunch, we traveled to Garrison and had a fun time meeting with those who organized and put together the summer lunch program that takes place at the library. We ended our day helping with fair clean-up in the office. Our task was to help count the ribbons that were not handed out at the fair and organize them by color into bags to use for next year. 

Tatum showing kids how to take off the seed coat of their lima beans.

On Tuesday, we returned to the Jane Boyd Community House to give our weekly lesson. This weeks lesson was over seed dissection. We started off by asking the kids if they could think of any seeds they could eat. They were a little stumped by this question but were able to answer it when we gave them a hint and showed them the popcorn bag. That’s right popcorn is a seed you can eat! While the kids enjoyed their popcorn we read the book Seeds  by Vijaya Bodach. This book showed the kids what is inside a seed, how a seed grows into a plant, other edible seeds, and different ways seeds are dispersed. One of the kids’ favorite ways to disperse seeds is to make a wish and blow on a dandelion.

Next, we did a fun seed dissection with lima beans. We first rubbed off the seed coat, which helps to protect a seed. Then we split the seeds into the two cotyledons which eventually become the first leaves of the plant. The kids used their handed lenses to identify the radicle that would eventually become the roots. When the kids were finished with the activity, we went outside to check on the garden. The kids enjoyed seeing the progress of the plants and all of the tiny little sprouts. Next week we will be doing an exciting lesson over composting so be sure to watch out for that! 

Kids pulling weeds in one of the garden beds.

On Wednesday, we traveled to the Prairie Intermediate School to hand out to-go kits at their summer lunch program. We were happy to hand out “Grow Your Own Spinach” kits to over 100 families! We also received a lot of positive feedback from the families that tried the ranch kits we handed out last time. That evening, we traveled to Cleveland Park in Cedar Rapids to hand out more activity kits at the Rolling Rec Mobile. Each child had the option to take a “Grow Your Own Spinach” kit or “Watch Me Grow” kit to plant their own spinach or bush beans. Despite the heat, we had a great turnout and were able to hand out over 30 kits. It looks like there will be a lot of little gardeners in the future! Along with the kits, the children also enjoyed putting on 4-H and Iowa State tattoos.

Enjoying our coffee from Fifth Street Koffee Haus.

We finally got the chance to try out the Fifth Street Koffee Haus, which is just across the street from the Benton County Extension Office. We tried the salted peanut butter latte and toasted coconut latte, which were both very tasty! Our afternoon was spent planning and gathering materials for programming next week. 

We traveled to Cleveland Elementary on Friday to do a program with Kids On Course University. We showed the kids the importance of physical activity and challenged them to try to get in 30-60 minutes of physical activity each day. Next the kids got to participate in a fun game of activity BINGO which is similar to regular BINGO but instead of numbers called out, exercises are called for the kids to complete and mark it if they have it on their card. The kids really enjoyed this activity and also had a blast checking the difference in their heart rate before and after physical activity. 

We can’t wait for another fun week of programming next week so be sure to stay tuned. 

– Tatum and Maelyn