From January to April (and beyond), Green Iowa AmeriCorps Members are organizing and hosting amazing projects all across the state of Iowa! Here's a few snippets...
Solid Waste Management Team in Cedar Falls
Erin Richardson and Liz Stange, the two Sustainable Schools Members serving with the Waste Trac Education team, are involved with some exciting new projects this year!
Erin Richardson has created, produced, and hosted a video series featuring the Composting Program at Holmes Jr. High School. Thanks to her creativity and ingenuity, the program has gained in popularity and awareness around the Cedar Valley. When she's not hard at work on the Compost series, Erin is planning events for both the Practical Backyard Tour Committee and for Earth Week as part of the Cedar Valley Earth Day Committee!
Liz Stange may not be on site this spring, but she is still coordinating sustainable education events for the Oelwein School District! Her involvement has included posting "Sustainable Facts of the Day", encouraging her classrooms to take a more active role in recycling, planning Martin Luther King Week service projects, and working on social media content for not only the Oelwein School District, but also the Cedar Valley Earth Day Committee!
Energy & Community Team in Iowa City
Little Free Library Citywide Tidy
From February 28-March 7, Iowa City volunteers and AmeriCorps Members worked together on a Little Free Library Citywide Tidy. Little Free Libraries are beloved community fixtures that rehome upcycled books, promote literacy, and contribute to neighborhood identity. Even with the care of their stewards, they sometimes become untidy or empty through normal daily use, so the hope behind this event was that a tidied bookcase would uplift the neighborhood! The efforts of 8 Green Iowa AmeriCorps Members, Reading Corps, and Habitat for Humanity - as well as 40 community volunteers and an additional 30 community partners - resulted in the distribution of over 230 books to 56 Little Free Libraries throughout Iowa City.
The Energy & Community Team in Iowa City has kicked off a weekly bird walk series that began on March 20th. The walks focus on identifying key groups of birds in the area and their vital role in the environment. Registration for these walks filled up within days, which means scores of Iowa City residents are exploring several of Iowa City's beautiful parks while gaining deep knowledge of raptors, wading birds, and owls. These walks are led by local bird experts/audit coordinators Jonah Alderson and Joey Aulino (pictured left)!
Iowa City Community School District in Iowa City
Meg McAloon and Lisa Stark, the Sustainable Schools Members at Iowa City Community School District, are working with three pilot schools this year: Van Allen Elementary, South East Junior High, and City High. Their goal is to implement a Single-Stream Recycling and Composting Program within all three of these schools!
When they are not working on the Single-Stream Program, they are involved in a slew of exciting projects. One of their projects is teaching a group of ~20 4th-6th graders from Van Allen elementary school about climate change. This often involves teaching students how they can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and make their school district more sustainable. As part of their teaching plan, Meg and Lisa created a short video that educates students about what products go in which bin (trash, recycling, or compost).
An anonymous member of the community donated a large sum of money to the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Foundation for the purposes of implementing a nitrates-in-water research project for AP Environmental Science students. Meg and Lisa have been asked to act as liaisons for the teachers and Water Researchers at the University of Iowa and a research company in the Netherlands. They will assist with the purchasing of testing materials.
Energy & Community Team in Cedar Falls
The Energy & Community team, Ashley Graas, Shelby Weaver, Heather Carr, James Janssen, and Trevor Smith, of Cedar Falls has planned a variety of projects for January, February, and March!
In January, the team participated in two events for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They volunteered at House of Hope, an organization geared towards homeless single mothers who age out of the foster system. The team worked in their warehouse by building new shelving units and organizing their donations onto the new shelves. They delivered meals to those in need in the Waterloo area for Jesse Cosby's Meals on Wheels.
In February, Heather Carr was able to "meet" with our District State Representative Bob Kressig for the Day at the Capitol. They discussed the importance of the AmeriCorps program as well as the upcoming projects the team had planned. The Energy & Community team was also able to partner with Sustainable Schools and give a presentation at Holmes Junior High over human impact and the environment. Shelby Weaver and Carmen Finkin were able to reach over 200 students in a week to talk about environmental stewardship.
In March, for AmeriCorps Week (March 8th - 12th), the Cedar Falls Energy & Community team stayed extra busy! They volunteered with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank Spring-Pack-A-Thon and participated in two trash clean ups, one along University Avenue in Cedar Falls and the other at George Wyth State Park. The team tabled at the Rod Library on University Northern Iowa's campus to inform UNI students about our open job opportunities. Thy ended AmeriCorps Week by volunteering with House of Hope, where they cleaned and staged a new apartment for a mom and her 3-year-old daughter.
The Green Iowa Energy & Community team was able to partner with the Cedar Falls Library and The Hearst Center for the Arts on distributing kids activity kits for the Local Food & Film Series. The Local Food & Film Series began with Shelby Weaver from the Green Iowa Energy & Community team joining with Austin Newland from the Green Iowa Land & Water Stewards team to partner with the UNI Local Foods program and several other local partners. Their goal was to move the Local Food & Film Festival online into a monthly documentary and discussion night, led and hosted by Shelby and Austin. During the month of March, over 60 kits were sent out to teach youth about local healthy foods. Green Iowa Energy & Community Team was also able to partner with Sustainable Schools to give energy presentations. Education Coordinator, Shelby Weaver, and Audit Coordinator, Trevor Smith, spent two days visiting the 7th-grade students at Peet Junior High and Holmes Jr High School encouraging them to be energy efficient and explaining how a home energy audit works.
Energy & Community Team in Dubuque
The Energy & Community team in Dubuque, consisting of David Shimek, Abby Willis, Rachel Surette, Annisia Perry (Ann), and Alexis Farrall, hosted a "Fix it" workshop at the start of Americorps week in March. The team has shared their recap of the event:
"To kick off Americorps week 2021, the Dubuque Energy & Community Team and Sustainable Schools Team hosted a
Fix it Workshop at their local Key City Creative Center (KCCC). The goals were to cultivate skills as well as promote repair, reuse, and self-sufficiency to prevent wasteful habits. They were able to make boomerang bags (reusable bags made from old t-shirts), repair a chair, learn how to replace a vacuum belt, repair clothing tears, and learn how to change the oil and headlights in a car. We are thankful for the facilities and instruction from KCCC and GIA members. We're looking forward to future events and the new skills we can share with the community!"
LIGHTS OUT HEARTLAND
This is a state-wide endeavor during the entire month of April to help migratory bird species stay safe. Did you know that 80% of bird species migrate during the months of April and September? The Energy & Community team is encouraging local businesses to reduce their light emissions during April and September.
This movement is a collaborative effort of organizations all across the Midwest: https://www.lightsoutheartland.org.
Land & Water Steward Team in Oskaloosa
Sara Aguilar and Tiana Stewart, the Land & Water Stewards at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, hosted a virtual town hall meeting in February allowing for the topics of water quality and the city's plans for environmental care to be discussed. This forum gives the community a greater opportunity to be more involved in what their city is doing in relation to the climate crisis.
The team also organized a Rain Barrel building workshop at the end of March. They made purchasing options available in April for those unable to participate in the workshop. When Sara and Tiana are not hosting workshops and public forums, they are finalizing the NRCS-SWCD yearly newsletter, and submitting grants for building conservation demonstrations on William Penn's campus and supporting green schoolyards for the local school district. The team is also welcoming their new full-time coordinator, Julie Smithart.
Trees Forever in Des Moines
Andrew Lazara and Wesley Anderson, the Des Moines Trees Forever Land & Water Stewards, decorated downtown Des Moines with red & pink paper hearts on trees in high foot-traffic areas for Valentine's Day. The paper hearts included little known tree facts: "Trees act as a natural blocker of the sun! They can reduce our exposure to UV-B rays down to 50%," and "Trees can raise your property value! Just by planting and maintaining trees and vegetation around your home, you can raise your property value up to 20%." The Cedar Rapids Trees Forever team, Gina Errico, Olivia Dove, and Emily Dirks, also decorated their local trees with Paper Hearts! The hearts appeared on the Trees Forever Instagram story to encourage Des Moines and Cedar Rapids residents to find the hearts in their own communities!
Practical Farmers of Iowa in Ames
Emma Liddle and Megan Sweeney, Land & Water Stewards serving with Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) had articles published in the Winter 2020 edition of The Practical Farmer, PFI’s magazine.
The articles revolved around the work that they do with PFI. Megan focused on the Cooperator’s Program, but she also got the opportunity to transcribe interviews with on-farm researchers about their experiences and takeaways. She enjoyed interviewing the farmers and editing the transcriptions for the magazine. Emma focused on three PFI high-tunnel building events that occurred after the August derecho in Cedar Rapids. She also enjoyed interviewing farmers, crafting the full story, and watching the publishing process unfold. When asked about their motivation behind writing these articles, Emma answered, "These articles were one of the first projects we worked on at PFI, so it was incredibly heartening to see the finished products in the magazine."
Both Emma and Megan are currently working on horticulture research reports for the Cooperator’s Program, "These reports consist of farmer-conducted scientific research, so the farmers create the trials and collect the data for PFI staff to analyze and write into reports. The reports will compare landscape fabric versus straw mulch for growing tomatoes, and how to grow ginger varieties in covered and uncovered beds." As recent college graduates in Biology, general and Environmental, Emma and Megan are uniquely situated to write some of PFI's scientific reports. Their creativity lends their stories a personable angle that makes their content more accessible for those outside the farming community. Be sure to check out the links they've provided and look for more from Emma and Megan at PFI!
Here are all of the articles: