Mind blown, award won, mic drop.
How do you fathom a tree’s height when you are blind? Helping an IESBVI student understand this concept, naturalists at Benton County Conservation explained it was about 12 times the height of the boy. “His mind was kind of blown when he processed that,” said naturalist Aaron Askelson.
Through Zoom sessions and an in-person conservation field day, IESBVI students learned more about native Iowa plants and animals. The collaboration between IESBVI and Benton County earned the two agencies the Sylvan Runkel Environmental Education Award, recognized by Iowa Association of Naturalists and the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition.
Askelson and co-naturalist Faith Henrichs worked with IESBVI staff Wendy Miller and Todd Frank to provide statewide Zoom sessions where some 20 students could connected virtually with nature. IESBVI’s Extended Learning Program assembled and mailed kits of prairie seeds to participants. Askelson noted the smells seeds have- some are minty; some citrusy, and the texture of the seeds provide sensory learning. Lengths of yarn were included in the kits to provide an idea of just how long roots of prairie plants can be.
Most summers, IESBVI students visit the naturalists for a field day. Canoeing, hiking, exploring animal skulls and pelts are some highlights students enjoy.
“This is such a fulfilling group we work with,” Askelson said. “The kids are appreciative and excited- that makes it rewarding for us.”