The Final Countdown! | Week 9 in Region 4

It was a busy, busy week for the Region 4 Rising Stars! We started right out of the gate on Monday with a meeting to update on our projects and got some guidance on our final presentation and final reports – which are due in a couple of weeks!!

We are at a point in the summer where the projects are beginning to wide down – we are focusing on finishing up with our deliverables for the counties and other partners, as well as shifting more attention to the final reports and putting together the presentation. Because of this, our days are more mellow and filled with lots of individual work time! Following our project update meeting on Monday, we headed over to Cabin Coffee Co. to power through on our projects and reports.

This summer – as you have seen through our blog posts – the Region 4 interns are working on seven (7) different projects throughout the five counties in the region. At the start of the summer, the four of us picked different projects to take the lead on and focus on. So, while we are not always able to work on the same project, we rely on each other for feedback when it comes to the projects. This is one of my favorite parts of working in an interdisciplinary team – there are three other perspectives I might not have considered; but, because of my teammates, I have a new way of thinking and approaching problems and concerns when they come up. Our individual work time is valuable, not only because we can work on the projects individually, but because we can also work together to come up with solutions and find ways to make the projects even better.

On Monday, the interns were able to meet with administrators at Lincoln Intermediate School in Mason City to continue discussion about the greenhouse project. One of the main concerns the teachers had was effectively incorporating the greenhouse into the existing curriculum, and being able to manage a classroom of students in the greenhouse. Rising Star Sarah Nelson heard their concerns and has been working diligently to create lesson plans aligned with the curriculum for teachers; Cooper and Sarah have also created plans for a classroom to be set up in the greenhouse! This way, when teachers and students want to do a lesson involving the greenhouse, they can be out there the entirety of the class period, which will save on time getting from the classroom to the greenhouse to do different activities.

The administrators – including the principal, vice-principal, and instructional coach – were really excited to see what has been created off of the project from 2021. During the meeting, we began discussion of what needs to happen next concerning teacher training so they feel prepared and ready to go into the greenhouse this coming fall.

Finishing off Monday strong – the Rising Stars traveled over to Osage to present plans for the community garden to the Osage City Council. During this meeting, we were able to answer questions anyone in attendance or those on the council may have. Oftentimes, when there is a big project – like the community garden – it can be hard to garner support from organizations like the city council. However, that is not the case in Osage! This is something that several people within the City, Parks and Rec, and Extension are excited about and ready to see come together this summer and be ready to go next spring!

Tuesday and Wednesday were nice, relaxing days after a busy Monday. We spent more time working on our projects, sending emails, and scheduling wrap up meetings. As mentioned before, the individual work time is nice because we are able to talk about the projects with each other and receive feedback, as well as talk through and make plans for the upcoming days and week. This time was also spent preparing to go to the Floyd County Fair on Friday, and the Franklin County Fair on Saturday.

Thursday we headed over to the Cerro Gordo Extension Office to put together our display for the Floyd County Fair. We were able to set up in the Convention Center on the fairgrounds with our display talking about the Rising Star Internship and highlighting our projects in Floyd County. For reference, those include:
1) Free Veggies – Floyd County: a public Facebook group to promote the produce and vegetable donation site in Charles City.
2) Social media marketing and promotion for the Charles City Farmers Market.
3) A promotional video for the Northeast Iowa Research and Demonstration Farm.
We finished off Thursday with a Zoom meeting about the Iowa Art Farm. Cooper continued to share his designs for the landscape, and what natives plants could be planted around the farm with Steve.

On Friday, we met with Sarah DeBour (Cerro Gordo County Extension Director) to go over a rough draft of our presentation and share our progress. Because of our seven (7) projects, we want to make sure we are adequately sharing what we accomplished and what we have learned with the other Rising Stars – without taking up too much time! Having feedback meetings with the county directors is really good, because we are able to use that feedback to improve our presentation, our projects, and ultimately our future work because of what we are learning from them and from each other. I think one of the our favorite parts of the internship so far has been all of the coffee shops (and ice cream shops) we have been able to explore! So of course, before heading to the Floyd County Fair, we had to make a coffee stop at Cabin Coffee Co. in Mason City. While we waited for our drinks, Cooper looked super cool on the saddle seat.

On Saturday morning, the Rising Stars woke up bright and early to travel down to Hampton for the Franklin County Fair! We presented our project with the La Luz Community Garden to the Extension Council and shared about our other projects and the internship. Afterwards, we were able to explore around the county fair for a while.

It is hard to believe that we are in the last few weeks of our internship! I know all four of us have really enjoyed being in North Central Iowa and have loved working with and learning so much from the county directors. We are looking forward to finishing up our projects and presenting our the finals drafts to the counties and other partners we have worked with.