Henry County Conservation Department receives education award
The Henry County Conservation Department is living up to its motto: “Conservation through Education.”
The Henry County Conservation Department received an early Christmas present on Dec. 22, as the department was notified they had been the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Environmental Education Program for Excellence in EE Programming by an Agency or Institution.
The award program, according to the press release, is a highly competitive award given by the Iowa Association of Naturalists and the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition. The award is based on environmental education programs uniquely suited to the needs in Henry County, Naturalist Cari Nicely said in a statement.
“The Henry County Conservation Department oversees four parks and seven recreation areas totaling over 900 acres,” Nicely said. “Our motto is Conservation through Education.”
In January 2005, the Henry County Conservation Board approved the hiring of a naturalist in an effort to expand the environmental education program. Since that time, the Henry County Conservation Department’s Environmental Education Program has seen exponential growth,” Nicely stated. “Residents participating in programs in 2004 numbered only 400. In 2005, numbers increased to 1,520. The program has continued to grow each year and in 2017, over 17,200 people took part in 674 environmental education programs provided by the department’s naturalists.”
The Conservation’s education programs are comprised of monthly “At the Park” programs, which included yearly favorites, such as outdoor cooking and the fall night hike. Other programs include Adult Conservation-Oriented Responsible Neighbors (ACORN), youth summer camps, school field trips to Oakland Mills Park and the Nature Center and classroom visits to the various school districts within Henry County.
According to Jackie McCord, an elementary school teacher at New London’s Clark Elementary, fourth-grade student’s science scores for the Iowa Assessment rose by 14 percent. “You (the Conservation’s educational programs) are a big part of our science here in fourth-grade.”
Nicely added the department couldn’t “do what we do if it weren’t for such incredible support by the public for all our programs – school or otherwise.”
The award was for environmental education programs with two or less full-time naturalists.
A plaque will be presented to the Henry County Conservation Department at the Iowa Association of County Conservation Board’s annual Winterfest conference in Waterloo in January 2017.