In the many talks regarding the new Iowa Child project, several good reasons to support it have been overlooked.
Iowa Child has the ability to enrich the lives of many students and adults living in not only Iowa but also all over the United States. This project combines the world’s largest indoor rainforest, an aquarium, pre-K-12 school and teacher learning center; there is not another of its kind anywhere in the world!
As a teacher, I know that most people learn best with a hands-on approach. Learning is more permanent when they are encouraged and allowed to learn by doing. For example, telling people about an ecological concept is one thing, but when students learn about it by working with the soil or animal life, or by getting a close-up view of how the ecological systems react to one another, that is what makes learning exciting. This excitement builds into a real mission or commitment to action. We are losing more and more rainforest acres every year. If something doesn’t change to stop the killing of wildlife by taking away their habitat, there will be no rainforest to learn from or about.
The education outreach program that can be facilitated through the Iowa Communications Network and technology enables the Iowa Child to enter schools all over Iowa. As an elementary classroom teacher, I would have loved the opportunity to teach about the rainforest and underwater life. What better way for our students to learn about these things not ordinarily found in Iowa!
The other aspect of this project that is especially exciting is the school. It has been my understanding from the beginning that this could be a joint project of a wide variety of educational resources such as a public school, the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, Kirkwood Community College, University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. The school would be a great place to showcase the best practices in education not only for students, but also for practicing teachers, new teacher candidates and high school students thinking about teaching careers. This professional teacher development center would also help future and present administrators to have more hands-on learning for their jobs. Iowa Child certainly would be a great place for teachers to do research and work with university programs to learn more about teaching and ecology, rainforests, plant and animal life.
Another positive aspect of Iowa Child is the prospect of intergenerational learning. There will be learning activities for the very youngest to the very oldest – from school work to conferences; from volunteers to world-renowned scientists to folks simply intrigued by nature. What a wonderful learning experience for all!
Iowa is facing a severe shortage of teachers in the next few years; science is one of the shortage areas. Iowa Child is the solution to recruit and “grow our own” science teachers – recruits who can learn from some of the most well known scientists, right here in Iowa.
Young folks are leaving Iowa for a number of reasons: nothing to do, few high-paying jobs, no unique features like mountains, oceans, great weather, etc. Iowa Child can address those concerns. But many of us know that Iowa is a great place to live and raise a family, and it would be even greater with the Iowa Child center.
It is our hope that people will carefully consider all the potential good Iowa Child can bring to our families and the state of Iowa.
Jolene Franken President Iowa State Education Association
The goals and plans of the Iowa Child Institute are unique and unparalleled in moving forward the development and education of children and their families in Iowa. Iowa is known for its quality educational institutions, and Iowa Child will provide a new and futuristic element to this already stellar record for children. What is most exciting about Iowa Child is the integration of a teachers’ learning center, educational research complex, and learning attraction.
There is no question in my mind that such an integrated method of learning offered by Iowa Child will be valuable to the Midwest, as well as attract new sources of commerce and employment. We have learned over the past decades that high-quality education is the starting point for new levels of economic development; this model is an excellent and forward-looking example.
As an educational consultant to the Iowa Child Institute, I have seen the care and planning that has been taken at each step of the process to ensure that this model is one that will have a long-term influence on Iowa’s children and families. As Director of the Penn State Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development, I will continue to lend consultation and help design effective program evaluation as desired.
Mark T. Greenburg, Ph.D. Bennett Chair of Prevention Research Director, Prevention Research Center Associate Director, Children Youth and Families Consortium
This letter addresses concerns expressed over the Iowa Child Institute’s proposed rainforest exhibit and the risks pertaining to disease or environmental hazard. As a rainforest ecologist focusing on both plants and animals and their ecological relationships, I have considered these issues before. During more than 25 years of professional experience in Africa, Latin America, and especially Southeast Asia, and having served as a professional consultant for live rainforest exhibits in the north temperate zone, I believe I can shed some light on this subject.
Fortunately, a substantial number of zoos, botanical gardens and facilities similar to the Iowa Child have been able to evaluate these risks, and institute protocols for screening and quarantining organisms to reduce them. In addition, the USDA enforces screening on the import of live organisms, and state veterinary and other regulatory agencies typically monitor conditions at exhibit sites to protect the public and the workers in frequent contact with these organisms.
As a general point, our north temperate ecosystems are protected from ecological invasion and hazards posed by tropical organism escapees by our winters. Iowa winters would not allow most invasive tropical populations to become established.
Diseases and pests of plants: These are specific to their hosts and do not pose a disease threat to humans. Imported live plants are typically fumigated to kill any above-ground organisms.
Soil-borne organisms: There seems to be no known occurrence of the escape of tropical microorganisms from soil into our environment at these latitudes. However, care must be taken to keep soil imported with plants within the facility, or to properly fumigate before disposal.
Vertebrates: The procedures for quarantine of species which can be successfully displayed for the public are well-established. This starts with serial tests for parasites, examination of health and blood samples, and then treatment within the country of origin. Individuals can be excluded at this point.
In summary, the disease and environmental risks from exhibiting live tropical organisms are well-known and evaluated. By following the protocols already developed by similar facilities and their health care and environmental professionals, these risks should not be a concern.
Dr. Mark Leighton Director, Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Peabody Museum and Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University
I am compelled to write this letter as evidence of support from the Institute for Character Development (ICD) for the Iowa Child Institute. Based on my knowledge of the project design, character education is a significant theme that will be integrated by infusing the concept of CHARACTER COUNTS! SM in all of the project’s teaching.
This character building framework is an important thread throughout the Iowa Child’s educational setting for children, teachers, families and researchers. As Iowa’s statewide partner in the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition and with a dedication to sharing the process of the nation’s most widely used character development framework, ICD is inspired by the vision of the Iowa Child Institute to weave the vital issue of character throughout its unique work.
ICD exists as a catalyst to work with individuals and organizations in embracing civility and good character as basic to meeting the needs of a changing society. Imagine, if you will, a place where civility and character are in balance – where children learn to behave properly and no one has to fear going to school. Imagine a time when adults, through their actions, model the kind of physical and social environment we want our children to carry into the future.
I can imagine the combination of character building, learning and teambuilding all in a setting created to stimulate and intrigue many minds. Only by setting out to accomplish what we think is impossible can many benefits be gleaned. I applaud the Iowa Child Institute for creating such a wonderful learning setting in Iowa.
Sincerely, J. Scott Raecker Executive Director Institute for Character Development at Drake University