Are you looking for a way to inspire curiosity, creativity, collaboration, optimism, and problem-solving skills in your students or youth group? Educational Game Jams do that and more! Games can help address real-world challenges, encourage systems thinking, and promote active engagement, making them particularly well suited to conservation education.
Game Jam 2024 registration now open!
Please register so we can communicate with you about the jam and opportunities.Click to sign up for Game Jam 2024
Educational Game Jams provide opportunities for students to develop games around a theme. They can inspire curiosity, creativity, collaboration, optimism, and problem-solving skills at any grade level. An informational webinar on November 16 will introduce educators to game jams and this year’s opportunity. We will also have a special guest from Iowa State University to discuss “What’s Wrong in Waterville?” – an educational simulation about Iowa water.
An informational webinar was held on November 16, 2023. Watch the recorded webinar here (YouTube video).
The Iowa Environmental Game Jam is a collaborative effort between ICEC, Iowa Project WILD, and will highlight conservation topics of interest in Iowa. Click a button below for information, videos, and other resources to help you and your students.
- Open to students in grades 3-12 (Grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12)
- Games can be analog (card games, board games, role playing games) or digital
- Teams should be 2-5 students
All student teams must submit their game description and up to a 4-minute video by March 31, 2024 to be included in judging. A link to the submission form will be shared with all educators after they register.
- Games will be judged and winners selected in April, 2024.
- Winners will be selected for the following categories:
- Grades 3-5, analog; Grades 3-5, digital
- Grades 6-8, analog; Grades 6-8, digital
- Grades 9-12, analog; Grades 9-12, digital
- All topics will be combined for judging.
- Introduction to Game Jam Webinar, YouTube video from November 16, 2023 Zoom session – Learn how to get started, tips for creating fun, educational games, and the rules for submitting your game to be entered in the statewide contest.
- Game Formats
- Analog game – The game should only use non-digital components. Typical examples include board games, card games, or role-playing games. Games must be in a playable form at the end of the event. The category is useful for either short or long events and is suited for locations with limited technology.
- Basic digital game – Games can be remixed from an existing game in the community or use a digital game platforms (e.g., Scratch, Gamestar Mechanic, Pixel Press’ Floors and Bloxels, Roblox, or GameSalad). Minecraft can be used if there is a clearly designed game experience within a Minecraft World and there is a clear goal for a player to achieve within the Minecraft world with clear constraints. Teachers can also use interactive fiction tools to create a text adventure based on the theme (e.g., Twine, InkleWriter, Episodes).
Iowa Endangered Species
Iowa’s ecosystems and dominant prairie landscape have changed greatly since Iowa achieved statehood. Many changes to the state include prairie reduction, deforestation, channelization of streams and rivers, soil erosion, urbanization, and the increase in production agriculture. Changes to the landscape impacts the plants and animals that depend on that landscape – both for the good and bad.
Threatened species are any plant or animal at risk of becoming endangered in the near future. Endangered species are any plant or animal at risk of becoming extinct in their natural environment or specific range. The population decline may be due to changes in habitat quality, poaching (illegal hunting), invasive species competing for the same resources, and human impact to the biosphere. There are state and federal lists of threatened and endangered plants and animals, as well as state and federal laws for protection.
- Iowa DNR Iowa’s Threatened and Endangered Species Program
- US Fish & Wildlife Service video about the Endangered Species Act (YouTube)
- TEDx Talk “Saving animals, saving the future | John Linehan” (YouTube)
- Iowa PBS “Scientists Study Endangered Species in Iowa’s Big Sand Mound Nature Preserve | Iowa Land and Sky” (YouTube)
- PBS: Above The Noise “Are Endangered Species Worth Saving?”
- National Geographic Endangered species overview and causes
- Iowa DNR Interactive map of listed species in Iowa
- Grades 3-8 Lesson plan from National Wildlife Federation about Endangered Species (PDF)
- NGSS: MS-ESS3-3, Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment
- Related Iowa Science Phenomena from Iowa PBS
Introduction: Iowa was once a land covered by vast prairies. While thick woodlands bordered the many rivers and streams and covered much of northeast Iowa, prairies still dominated the landscape. Prairie grasses and flowers covered approximately 85 percent of Iowa. Wetlands dotted the prairie landscape, and a large variety of wildlife lived in Iowa’s prairies and prairie wetlands. Only 0.1% of the original Iowa prairies remain. Many people are working to reintroduce prairie species back to help Iowa’s soils, provide wildlife habitat and protect water quality.
- Iowa Prairies (PDF)
- Prairie Sensory Walk for Kindergarten (PDF)
- Many lesson plans for grades 4-8 from the UNI Tallgrass Prairie Center
- Multidisciplinary Curriculum Ideas on the Tallgrass Prairie (PDF)
- Lesson plans for kindergarten through high school from ISU Water Rocks
- Tallgrass Prairie video series from Iowa PBS (YouTube)
Protecting Iowa Waters
Water is something everyone encounters everyday. Most people don’t realize how big a role water plays in their lives. We drink it, use it to clean ourselves and our things, and many other things. What happens if our water isn’t clean? Iowa is a farming state. Crops rely on water. The water on Earth is not forever, it is cycled out through the water cycle. Even though the water cycle cycles water out, it is not always clean because of water pollution.
- Iowa’s Aquatic Habitats
- Iowa’s Aquatic Life
- Iowa’s Aquatic Ecosystems
- Project WET: The Role of Water in Our Lives
- USGS Water Science School
- Aquatic WILD Iowa-relevant and Supplemented Activities (Google Sheet)
Iowa Invasive Species
Invasive species can be seen all over the globe and are defined as a species that is not indigenous, or non-native, to the area in which it has been found. Species listed as invasive can be very damaging to native species and can be a driving force in species decline. An invasive species will outcompete native species for water, food, and shelter. Invasive species can also become a new predator or even an apex predator in an environment/habitat.
The zebra mussel is a perfect example of an invasive species that were introduced from areas of Russia and Ukraine. In the United States, zebra mussels dominate freshwater by filtering the algae that is needed as food for native mollusks. Zebra mussels are also known to attach themselves to native mollusks essentially suffocating and incapacitating them. On top of harming native species, zebra mussels also attach themselves to boat propellers and be transferred to another water body. There are signs posted at many boat ramps to check for zebra mussels and to remove them.
Another example of an invasive species is garlic mustard. This plant is non-native to Iowa but can currently be found everywhere in Iowa. When introduced into the state, garlic mustard began spreading at a rapid rate and overtaking land. If found, the Department of Natural Resources recommends pulling the garlic mustard and its roots out of the ground and dispose of it away from the rest of the vegetation.
- USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species – Look up aquatic invasive species by state
- USDA National Invasive Species Information Center – Iowa information
- Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry PowerPoint about invasive species that are in the state. Shows what each invasive species looks like as well as gives Management techniques (PDF)
- Iowa DNR – Invasive Plants: Forest Invasive Species Guide
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach – Invasive Species in Iowa
- National Invasive Species Awareness Week
- PBS Plum Landing: A simulation to show students what an invasive species can do to an environment if not controlled or taken away.
- Iowa PBS “Upcycling Invasive Species | Iowa Land and Sky” (Video and discussion)
- Iowa Outdoors “Invasive species in Iowa’s forests” (YouTube)
- Related Iowa Science Phenomena from Iowa PBS
- University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health – A map of the United States. Students can utilize this resource to study a state and the state’s Invasive species by clicking on the state that interests them.
- National Geographic – Invasive Species 101 (YouTube)
- TED-Ed video on invasive species. This outlines the concept and implications of invasive species very well and I think would be great for younger audiences. (YouTube)
Renewable energy is energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Sunlight and wind, for example, are such sources that are constantly being replenished. Renewable energy sources are plentiful and all around us.
One example of a renewable energy source is the wind. Iowa is the second-largest wind power producer in the United States, after Texas. In Iowa, renewable energy produced by wind turbines provides 62% of the power needed in the state. Wind development in Iowa began more than 25 years ago, and supports thousands of Iowans employed in manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance, and more.
The strongest winds occur in northwestern Iowa, and although there are wind farms across the state, most are in the state’s northern and western areas. The potential for further wind development in Iowa is great.
About 3% of Iowa’s in-state electricity generation in 2022 came from renewable energy resources other than wind, with hydroelectric power, solar energy, and biomass each contributing a small amount of the state’s electricity. The largest of Iowa’s four hydroelectric power plants, the Keokuk plant, is 110 years old. It is the largest privately-owned and operated dam and hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi River. The state’s biomass resources include landfill gas and agricultural biodigesters that both produce methane gas as fuel for electricity-generating facilities. Iowa is the top fuel ethanol-producing state in the nation and has about one-fourth of the nation’s total fuel ethanol production capacity.
- NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) – This resource gives an overview of 8 different types of renewable energies.
- MidAmerican Energy – This resource gives an overview of how energy is produced for a Midwest energy company.
- Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy – This is a great resource for teachers and high school students covering solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric energy sources. This website includes information on cost, how these energies work, benefits and challenges to these four renewables.
- IRENA – This is another great resource if teachers or students are looking for real data. This site looks at six different renewables, describes energy output, costs, and general information for each.
- LEGO – How does Renewable Energy Work? (YouTube)
- TED-Ed Talk: Can 100% Renewable Energy Power the World? (YouTube)
- Nat Geo video Renewable Energy 101 (YouTube)
- TED Climate: How wind energy could power earth…18 times over | Dan Jorgensen (YouTube)
- EPA Lesson Plans and teacher activities about energy
- Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation “High School Lesson Plan”
- Iowa PBS “ Iowa | Activity 8.5: Energy from Biomass”
- Iowa PBS “Iowa | Activity 8.4: Wind Power”
- Take this Energy Survey at your home… Then search for your home on Project Sunroof to discover your solar savings potential.
- Related Iowa Science Phenomena from Iowa PBS:
Soil is critical for life. Soil acts as a water filter and a growing medium. It provides habitat for billions of organisms,contributing to biodiversity. Soil provides many of the antibiotics used to fight diseases. Humans use soil to filter wastewater and is the foundation for our cities and towns. Finally,soil is the basis of our nation’s agricultural systems providing us with food, fiber and fuel. Soil is a nonrenewable natural resource. Soil organic matter filters and cleans water, helping with water retention and storage. It can lessen the impacts of extreme weather events. Good land practices can improve the soil, reducing erosion. It can provide habitats for microscopic life which serve as the start of important ecosystem food webs.
- Soil Basics Online Session (YouTube) – Learn about the complex system that is soil, and its role in our lives. This is an introduction that can help students determine what aspect of soil they want to “dig” into to learn more and teach others through their game.
- Soil Basics slides (PDF) – there are two (very cool) YouTube links that open outside the PDF.
- Soils Overview – from the Soil Science Society of America (PDF)
- Soils in the Geologic Record (PDF) – a 12-month 2021 calendar from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Soil Facts: Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Soil Education: Learn about soil from information from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- A Day in the Life of a Soil Scientist #1 Career focus (YouTube video)
- A Day in the Life of a Soil Scientists #4 Career focus (YouTube video)
- Day in the Life – Soil Conservationist Career focus (YouTube Video)
- Learn about this experiment conducted during the growing season… Soil Your Undies for Soil Health (PDF) and here is a companion video
- Don’t Treat it Like Dirt – video on Iowa NRCS YouTube. This is a product of a high school collaborating with a District Conservationist – having to do with soil health.
- Glomalin: Soil’s Sticky Secret – video from Iowa NRCS YouTube. Rick Bednarek, now retired NRCS State Soil Scientist, demonstrates how glomalin acts as a soil glue to build soil aggregates with Styrofoam balls and silly string.
- K-12 Soil Science Teacher Resources – Soil Science Society of America
- Know Soil Know Life Educator Guide – Soil Science Society of America
- Lessons and Activities – Soil Science Society of America
- Play Soil Games – Soil Science Society of America
- Conservation Nation – Demo of effects of cover and cover crops on erosion (grades 3-5), Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
- Earthworm Exploration – Students explore importance of earthworms in soil (grades 3-5), Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
- Let’s Mix up Some Soil – Students will learn that soil is a valuable natural resource that farmers are conscientious about caring for (Grade 5), Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
- Retaining Water in Soil – Students will learn that different types of soil have various water-holding capacities and that it influences how well crops grow in that soil. Soil texture and structure is important for sustaining productive plant life. (Grade 5), Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
- What Soil is This? – Students will identify the many properties of soil and how it is made up of many different types and textures (which can affect plants’ growth and development). (Grades 3-5), Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
- Soil Conservation Investigation – Students will identify the different types of farming techniques to conserve soil and be able to visually see the practice in use or test out the conservation practice with a soil erosion experiment. (Grades 6-8), Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
- Soil Erosion – Students will compare three types of groundcover to see which provides the best defense against soil erosion. (Grade 6), Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
- USDA Soil Health Bucket Guidebook – secondary (PDF)
- How Much Soil is There? (PDF)
- Make up of a Soil Survey (PDF)
- Project Learning Tree – Soil Erosion: Why It Happens and What We Can Do About It
Contact ICEC for additional questions!