Teacher & Family Resources
Educational Guides, Activities, and Lesson Plans
- EE / CE Supports and WILD Resources - Iowa Conservation Education Coalition
- Iowa Learning Farms: Iowa Learning Farms is building a culture of conservation, calling attention to the importance of improved water and soil quality through conservation farming practices, from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
- Teacher Resources from the Iowa DNR: Iowa Department of Natural Resources environmental education resources for teachers and youth leaders.
- Water Rocks!: A site creating a new public awareness toward the many issues surrounding water.
- 15 Minute Field Trips
- Animal Diversity: Searchable online database and research for teachers sponsored in part by the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
- Connecting Kids & Nature, Mind Body Spirit Fact Sheet (PDF)
- Be Out There (PDF)
- Ranger Rick's Magazines & Apps - National Wildlife Federation
- Educator Resources - National Wildlife Federation
- Feathered Friends Activities: Cornell Lab of Ornithology BirdSleuth K-12, Engaging science activities using your local birds!
- Field investigations create an essential link between classroom activities and what students see and experience outside the school settings. These investigations can provide students with examples of how the science concepts they learn in class are used in everyday life and encourage students to ask questions, explore, observe, and investigate their local environment. Direct observation can provide a stimulating and rewarding experience for you and your students. Outdoor experiences in nature increase students’ problem solving abilities and motivation to learn in social studies, science, language arts, and math. Conducting classroom field investigations help students become systems thinkers, learn the skills of scientific inquiry, and understand that science doesn’t only happen in a laboratory or classroom. Learn more about field investigations and scientific inquiry with these great resources:
- Field Investigations: Using Outdoor Environments to Foster Student Learning of Scientific Processes - Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (opens as PDF)
- Inquiry-based Learning - WNET and thirteen.org
- Inquiry-Based Science: What Does It Look Like?
- Project WILD and Aquatic WILD
- Teaching Great Lakes Science
- University of Montana ECOS Program
- Manual of Instructional Materials for Teachers & Naturalists Teaching About Fungi: Grades K-12 - North American Mycological Association
- Nature Works Everywhere: Nature Works Everywhere gives teachers, students and families everything they need to start exploring and understanding nature around the globe alongside Nature Conservancy scientists. Interactive lesson plans align to standards and can be customized for each classroom.
- North American Conservation Education Strategy: The toolkit contains resources developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to support conservation educators.
- Project Bluestem Curriculum - Friends of Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge
- Resources for Investigating Evidence - BirdSleuth - The Cornell Lab
- Beetles - Resources for Outdoor Science Programs
- Schoolyard Habitats - National Wildlife Federation
- Science Experiments With Water: While we don't endorse any particular water filter company, we are tickled that they link to many cool activities with water!
- Seeing Nature: You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird... so let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing That’s what counts! I learned very early on the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. ~Richard Feynman, physicist
- The Leopold Education Project: The Leopold Education Project (LEP) is an innovative, interdisciplinary conservation and environmental education curriculum based on the essays in A Sand County Almanac.
- Virtual owl pellet dissection - KidWings!
- Environmental Education Virtual Field Trips for Nature Lovers- Virtual field trips to botanical gardens, national parks, and museums; biome tours; wildlife cameras; and written resources for extension.
Iowa’s Nature Series
- A series of pdfs and graphics describing various plant, animal, geologic, and human aspects of Iowa’s natural resources.
Iowa DOT Nature Guides
DOT Guidebooks- Free Iowa-specific PDF guides on trees & shrubs, plants, soil, and more.
Amphibians and Reptiles
- A Field Guide to Amphibian Larvae and Eggs of Minnesota, Wisconsin, & Iowa - USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
- Amphibians and Reptiles - A Complete Field Guide of Iowa Herpetology: Online field guide to Iowa amphibian and reptiles offering photos and information on habitat, range, diet, identification, and behavior.
- Iowa Reptiles & Amphibians - Iowa Association of Naturalists
- Iowa Vertebrates - Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Iowa Association of Naturalists
- Reptiles & Amphibians of Iowa, Lizards of Iowa, Snakes of Iowa
- North American Amphibian Monitoring Project: Learn about the project and volunteer opportunities or just take a frog call quiz!
Aquatic Invertebrates and Mussels
- Aquatic Invasive Invertebrates - Iowa DNR
- Four Cool Facts You Should Know About Mussels - Iowa DNR
- Freshwater Mussels of Iowa
- Iowa Freshwater Mussels and Water Quality - Iowa PBS Iowa Land and Sky
- The Importance of Freshwater Mussels - Iowa PBS Iowa Land and Sky
- Zebra Mussels - Iowa DNR (PDF)
- Izaak Walton League of America - Resources for stream monitors: click on "Know Your Macros" to learn about stream bugs
- Aquatic MacroInvertebrate Collection
- Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society
- Freshwater Mussel Conservation Society: Learn about mussel reproduction
- Missouri's Freshwater Mussels: Missouri Conservationist article
- Missouri's Freshwater Mussels (PDF)
- Mussel Conservation: Click on your state for links to specific local conservation sites
- USFWS Exotic Zebra Mussel
- USFWS Higgins Eye Pearlymussel Fact Sheet
Birds - General, Bird Watching
- Field Checklist of Iowa Birds (PDF)
- Iowa Breeding Bird Atlas: This 5-year project started in 2008 will collect information on the current ranges of Iowa’s breeding birds. Link for Iowa early and late nesting dates by species.
- Iowa Ornithologists' Union: Searchable online database of Iowa birding reports, birding site guides, and checklists from the Iowa's Ornithologists' Union.
- Iowa Young Birders
- All About Birds: Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great resource for sounds, identification, and to improve your birding skills.
- American Woodcock Aerial Dance: A 2 minute YouTube video
- American Woodcock Portrait: Gives you a good idea of the sound of the male's call - less than 1.5 minute YouTube video.
- Birding with Kids: Choosing a Field Guide - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Bird Song Hero: The Song Learning Game for Everyone
- eBird: Real-time, online bird checklist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.
- Macaulay Library - Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the world's largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video recordings!
- Mnemonic Bird Songs - South Bay Birders Unlimited
- National Audubon Society for Kids!
- Teaching Bird ID - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- The Feather Atlas - Feather Identification and Scans from the USFWS Forensic Lab - This website promotes feather identification (species, as well as parts of a feather), research, laws around feathers, and appreciation by providing high-resolution scans of the flight feathers of North American birds.
- whatBird: Bird identification search engine and guide.
Birds - Live Cams
Please note that once young have fledged, cameras may be turned off
- Raptor Resource Project: Learn acout this Iowa-based group's efforts to help re-establish the peregrine faclon, also known for Decorah Eagle Cam
- Cornell Lab Bird Cams & FeederWatch Cam
Birds - Migration, Population Surveys, and Monitoring
- BirdCast: Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird migration forecasts in real time
- Cornell Lab FeederWatch Cam
- Craighead Beringia South: Migration research including eagles, osprey, and red-tails.
- Great Backyard Bird Count
- Hawk Mountain: Learn about raptor migration from one of the best places in the US to see migrating hawks in the fall.
- Journey North - Tracking Migration & Seasons
- LoonWatch: Program at Northland College in Wisconsin not only monitors loon populations, but also water quality.
- Operation Ruby Throat: A cross-disciplinary international initiative in which people collaborate to study behavior and distribution of the ruby-throated hummingbird.
- Project Feeder Watch
Birds - Raptors
- Cool Things You Should Know About Iowa Hawks
- Identifying Iowa's Raptors (PDF)
- Osprey in Iowa - Iowa Osprey brochure (PDF)
- SOAR's Involvement With Osprey Reintroduction
- "High Velocity Falcon": Video from National Geographic and check out how fast a peregrine dives!
- Characteristics: Check out the Peregrine Funds "Explore Raptors" page to learn what makes a bird of prey (or raptor).
- Infographic from Magic of the Snowy Owl!
- Nature - American Eagle: A YouTube link for this PBS produced, hour-long episode of Nature filmed by Neil Rettig shows the lives of eagles in the wild.
- OspreyWatch - For Watchers & Enthusiasts: This informative site comes from the Center for Conservation Biology and helps you learn more about osprey and where they are nesting.
- Snowy Owl Invasion - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- The Owl Pages: Everything from species lists and photos to owl physiology and rehabilitation.
Birds - Waterfowl
- All About Birds - Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl
- Ducks at a Distance: A waterfowl identification guide from USFWS, information to help you ID ducks (PDF).
Butterflies, Moths, Pollinators, and Other Insects
- Xerces Society: Organization that focuses on invertebrate conservation. It's a great source for info about pollinators, monarchs, and native habitiat.
- Best Practices to Promote Pollinator Habitat - Iowa State University Extension & Outreach
- Information on Pollinators From the Iowa DNR
- Iowa Insects & Bugs
- Iowa Odonata Survey: Organized group of folks interested in furthering the knowledge of Iowa invertebrates, dragonflies and damselflies in particular.
- Iowa’s Woodlands: Vital Habitat for Native Pollinators - Iowa DNR (PDF)
- List of Butterflies of Iowa
- Plant. Grow. Fly. - Blank Park Zoo
- Reiman Gardens Butterfly & Insect Links, Articles - Iowa State University
- How do butterflies/moths spread their wings after emerging? - Reiman Gardens
- Regal Fritillary - Reiman Gardens
- Regal Fritillary Butterfly Life Cycle Poster (PDF) - Reiman Gardens
- Animal Pollinators: US Forest Service lists of ants, bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, flies, moths, and the plants that are important.
- BioKIDS Butterflies & Moths
- BugGuide: Identification, images, and information for insects, spiders, and bugs in the U.S. and Canada.
- Butterflies and Moths of North America
- Journey North - Tracking Migration & Seasons
- Managing Roadsides for Bees & Butterflies - Xerces Society
- Monarch Butterflies and the Working Lands for Wildlife
- Monarch Watch: Students, teachers, volunteers and dedicated researchers dedicated to the study of the Monarch Butterfly.
- Native Bee Benefits - USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (PDF)
- Native Pollinator
- Plant Lists for Wildlife - Midwest The Metropolitan Field Guide
- Pollinator Habitat - USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (PDF)
- The Pollinator Prairie - Pollinator Partnership
- The Simple Truth: We Can't Live without Them - USDA Forest Service (PDF)
- Why is Pollination Important for Native Wildflowers? - USDA Forest Service
- Who are the Pollinators? - Xerces Society
Early Childhood Resources
- KinderNature: Resource for parents and early care and education providers to assist in learning, developing, and implementing a well-balanced environmental education preschool program with developmentally appropriate activities that incorporate a variety of learning styles!
- 10 Tips for Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids - The Big Outside blog
- Children & Nature Network: The Children & Nature Network is leading a movement to connect all children, their families, and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration, and support of grassroots leadership.
- Do Early Outdoor Experiences Help Build Healthier Brains? - Richard Louv, Psychology Today 2/6/13
Endangered, Threatened, and Species of Concern
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Search any species to see whether it is considered threatened or endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature.
- Iowa's Threatened & Endangered Species Program: Look for the link for the list of animals and a list of plants.
- Threatened and Endangered Species - Iowa Animal ID Guide - USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
- US Geological Survey - What are the differences between endangered, threatened, imperiled, and at-risk species?
- Iowa Fish - Iowa’s Wildlife Series - (archived Iowa Association of Naturalist publication)
- Iowa’s Nature Series - Vertebrates
- Fish ID: This is from Wisconsin, but has a great glossary and search feature!
Geology & Soil
- Fossils in Iowa from Iowa Geological Survey
- U.S. Geological Survey: Provides scientific information and resources by grade level about natural resources, natural hazards, geospatial data, and issues that affect our quality of life.
- Dr. Dirt: These resources have been developed primarily for K-8 teachers and students. Hands-on, exploratory learning activities based on methods of scientific inquiry will encourage interest in science, soil, engineering, agriculture, and natural resources.
- K-12 Soil Science Teach Resources - Soil Science Society of America
- Soil Biology - USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Learn about the components of soil.
- Soil Education: Learn about soil from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Hunt and Fish Lead-Free: Learn the importance of hunting and fishing lead-free.
- Lead Poisoning in Wild Birds - US Geological Survey (USGS) Handout
- Reasons to Consider Getting the Lead Out of Your Hunt: Regardless of who's saying what, most of us want to see the evidence behind an argument. This site is intended to act as a place to gather that information together and take a look at reasons to hunt with non-lead ammo.
- Research - Eagles & Lead: SOAR - Saving Our Avian Resources has been compiling data on lead and bald eagles since 2004.
- The Peregrine Fund 2008 Spent Lead Ammunition Conference: Go here to see all the abstracts from this scientific gathering.
- Bats of Iowa
- Did you know that Iowa has nine species of bats?
- Mammals of Iowa Field Guide - Iowa State University Extension & Iowa Department of Natural Resources
- River Otter in Iowa
- Explore Iowa's county conservation board system for local areas near you to get outside!
- Official Geocaching Website
- Iowa DNR Paddling Information
Prairies and Prairie Habitat Restoration
- In the Tallgrass: A short animated film (on Vimeo) about exploring the insect world hidden in an Iowa tallgrass prairie. Created as part of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site’s 2017 Artist-In-Residency program.
- Iowa's Nature Series: Prairies
- Iowa Habitat Loss and Disappearing Wildlife - (archived Iowa Association of Naturalists)
- Iowa Prairie Network on Facebook
- Iowa Prairies - (archived Iowa Association of Naturalists)
- Prairie Resource Center - Iowa DNR
- Tallgrass Prairie Center: at the University of Northern Iowa
Plants and Foraging
- Iowa's Spring Wildflowers - Iowa Association of Naturalists Iowa Plant Series
- Foraging for Wild Food: 6 Sustainable Techniques by The Sierra Club. Provides information on foraging etiquette. A must-read for any beginner!
- Guide to Edible Plants in the Grinnell Area- Information on how local plants are used and prepared for food, medicinal purposes, and more. Use in conjuction with a good plant ID guide. Produced by Grinnell College.
- Iowa's Living Roadway Plant Profiler- Amazing free guide for Iowa-specific plants. Produced by Iowa DOT.
- Prairie States Mushroom Club- Midwestern US club with mushroom ID workshops, forays, and an identification committee to contact as needed.
- Iowa Foragers- Facebook group to meet other foraging enthusiasts and share knowledge.
- 6 Tips for Foraging Wild Raspberries and Strawberries by Iowa DNR
- 50 Tips to Spot Morels by Iowa DNR
- On the Hunt for Fall Mushrooms by Iowa DNR
- Foraging for Wild Asparagus: Hunting and Cooking by Iowa DNR
- Edible Outdoors by Iowa Outdoors. Youtube video on how to safely forage from nature. Shows some basic, common wild edibles in Iowa.
- Forager Chef by Alan Bergo. Recipes and tips for using wild edibles.
- Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA)- Foraging and educational resources for Native American communities.
Gabrielle Cerberville, AKA "Chaotic Forager": PhD holder that makes short, fun videos showcasing wild plants and their uses.
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0LqNI92KujRLCj-247ve3w
- Website/blog: https://chaoticforager.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chaoticforager/?hl=en
Alexis Nicole, AKA "The Black Forager": Forager who makes short, fun, and educational videos showcasing different wild edible plants and how to use them.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackforager/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BlackForager
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackforager/?hl=en
Suzie Grieve, AKA "foragedfibres": Artist who makes baskets from foraged materials. She shows her drying and weaving process. A very unique plant artist!
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/foragedfibres/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/foragedfibres
Trees and Forests
- Interactive Tree Identification Key - Iowa State University Extension Forestry
- Emerald Ash Borer & Other Pests: Pests that are threatening Iowa's tree population - Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
- Native Iowa Woodlands Understory Restoration: A Guide to Collecting and Germinating Seed
- Arbor Day Foundation: Besides an on-line tree identification tool, also resources and information about the benefits of trees and picking the right tree to plant for your location.
- Guide to Trees & Shrubs of Iowa- Tree & shrub guide by Iowa DOT. Free online PDF version.
- Trees Forever- Forest-focused organization. They have a great webinar series on their youtube channel.
Water and Water Quality
- Clean Water Iowa - Iowa Water Quality Initiative... working together to make a positive impact on water quality
- Explore More: Water Quality - Iowa PBS YouTube video
- Iowa's Nature Series - Aquatic Environments (PDF)
- Iowa Wetlands - Iowa Association of Naturalists (PDF)
- Project AWARE - A Watershed Awareness River Expedition that aims to clean our waterways and improve water quality
- Water Rocks
- GLOBE, Watershed Dynamics: Enables students to investigate their own watershed.
- Missouri River Relief: Missouri-based group focused on cleaning up the river, mini-grants, and educational opportunities!
- The Leaf Pack Network: An initiative of Stroud™ Water Research Center. The Stroud Center seeks to advance knowledge and stewardship of freshwater systems through global research, education, and watershed restoration.
- US Geological Survey (USGS) Water Resources: Provides scientific information and resources on several water topics.
- USGS Water Science School: All about water!
- Water Cycle, Precipitation Education - NASA
Weather, Stars, and the Moon
- Planets Visible in the Night Sky, Des Moines, Iowa
- Find Planets & Constellations in the Night Sky: Can display the night sky anytime and for any position on earth.
- GLOBE at Night: (GaN) is a world wide citizen science project that anyone can participate in. The website has information about how to identify Orion and other constellations and use a magnitude chart. GaN asks people all over the world to go out and observe during specific dates (a 9 day period each month) and report the sky conditions and how visible the constellation was.
Wetland Protection, Management, and Restoration
- A Landowner's Guide to Wetland Conservation in the Northern Tallgrass Prairie - the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture
- Principles of Wetland Restoration - EPA