Posted on July 28, 2022

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A key focus for Metro Waste Authority is environmental education. We offer schools and other groups a variety of learning opportunities about responsible waste management and environmental stewardship.

One of the unique experiences we provide is our annual westside professional development workshop. This workshop was established thanks to a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

During the two-day event, teachers from school districts across the metro explore Walnut Creek, searching the banks for plants and animals, collecting water samples, and learning about the importance of watersheds.

They also create impactful projects to engage students in active, outdoor environmental science learning.

Since the workshops began two years ago, more than 20 public and private school teachers from Johnston, Urbandale, Des Moines, Bondurant-Farrar, North Polk, Norwalk, Ames, Ballard, Waukee, and West Des Moines have participated! Some of the projects these educators created to engage their students include:

  • Investigating the health of the Ioway watershed by conducting tests on factors like erosion, weathering, and vegetation quality, then engaging in a site analysis of school property and researching best management practices for maintaining a healthy watershed. This work will culminate in a public exhibition to share data and suggestions for environmental best practices.
  • Analyzing stormwater runoff on school property and evaluating and recommending management practices based on findings.
  • Making connections between site inventories and biodiversity, investigating ways to promote greater biodiversity and ecosystem health on school property.
  • Creating site inventories of school grounds to help students better understand how human installations like pavement and lawns impact soil quality and biodiversity.
  • Observing soil, plants, and water outdoors, looking for signs of environmental health, and coming up with strategies for protection of the watershed.
  • Creating site inventories and gathering environmental data through experiences like soil temping and coring, then using the data to understand the impact humans have on biodiversity and to suggest opportunities for improvement.
  • Studying soil data to understand the current levels of soil health, then creating and maintaining gardens designed to conserve water and promote biodiversity through the attraction of pollinators.
  • Visiting Walnut Creek to gather information on the health of the water through analysis of water quality and macroinvertebrates and other water-dwelling organisms, then using that data to brainstorm ways to improve the health of our watersheds. Data and their ideas for environmental protection will be shared with city leaders.
  • Observing the environment on school grounds, then visiting Walnut Creek to observe the natural environment, helping students to draw connections between their school grounds and their potential impact on the Walnut Creek watershed.

We are excited to watch these projects launch in schools over the next year and look forward to helping more educators take environmental learning outside in future workshops!

For more information about Metro Waste Authority’s professional development opportunities, check out our Educator Resources webpage or give us a call at 515.244.0021.