Youth Conservation Field Day

Final Report for YENC14-071

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2014: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Manager:
Janel Meyer
Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District
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Project Information



  • Name: Janel S. Meyer
  • Address: 1220 N. 200 W., Peachtree Plaza 200
  • City:  Angola              State:  IN                  Zip Code:  46703
  • Phone: 260-665-3211, X3
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • Website:
  • Project Title: Youth Conservation Field Day
  • Project Number: YENC14-071
  • Project Duration: April 8, 2014 – October 15, 2015
  • Date of Report: December 18, 2015

The Steuben Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and partner organizations held the Youth Conservation Field Day (YCFD) on September 9th in 2014 and September 8th in 2015 at Pokagon State Park in Angola, IN.  Our target audience was five local elementary school’s fourth grade classes (Angola Metropolitan School District and Fremont Community Schools).  Nearly 600 students participated in the YCFD between 2014 and 2015.

The objective of this workshop was to provide students with a base foundation to show them the importance of conserving our natural resources. During these field days, sustainable agriculture was featured and students were taught the importance of conserving our topsoil though a soil health session promoting crop rotation, utilizing no-till, and planting cover crops.  The students participated in a hands-on water quality project demonstrating what happens when sediment and nutrient runoff occurs in their watershed (soil erosion boxes).  The demonstration and associated discussion educated students on how the stewardship of our land and water benefits society by allowing populations to flourish with respect to food production, profitability, and environmental protection.

Our field day also featured other demonstrations, which included: a) a wildlife session, where the children learned what occurs when ecosystem-balances change; (b) a forestry session that explained the importance of trees as a natural resource (i.e. habitat, building soil health, etc.); (c) a session to educate children about fish management, complete with sampling gear, that illustrated how biologists collect fish and associated fish samples (i.e. scales); (d) a 4-H session where students were taught about natural resource projects they can perform through the 4-H program, such as soil conservation and entomology and (e) a recycling presentation that utilized the “Dumpster Drummers”, an educational group who use the arts to educate children and adults about recycling and environmental conservation in a fun and memorable way.

The sustainable agriculture knowledge gained was directly related to environmental health and potential economic profitability. Students were taught that agricultural sustainability relies on meeting the needs of present populations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  This was demonstrated by showing the students that only a small portion of land is capable of producing food (a.k.a. “the Apple Demonstration”).  With wind and water being serious causes of soil loss and degradation, there are practices that can be implemented to utilize natural resources in ways that can regenerate agricultural land’s productive capacity and also minimize harmful impacts on ecosystems beyond the field.

In addition to hands-on activities, educational materials were provided that complimented what students were taught. These activity books could be used throughout the school year and promoted sustainable agriculture teaching soil health, water quality, and urban storm water conservation.  Each year, pre and post-tests were administered to gauge what students learned.  On average, students improved 1-2 points between the pre and post-tests.  The soil health session featured soil erosion boxes to demonstrate the benefits of covered versus bare soil; an item students are assessed on through Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) testing.

The YFCD was planned to provide small group interaction and education to students on their day field trip. Since nearly 300-325 children attended each year, they were split into groups and rotated between the six stations.  Breaking into smaller groups allowed students the ability to interact with presenters, and each other, while learning in a fun atmosphere.  By keeping groups small and presentations in 20-minute segments, we held the children’s attention to help them absorb the concept of natural resource conservation.

The Steuben SWCD has been involved with teaching youth about sustainable agriculture through our summer Conservation Camps and participating in Duck Days.

The summer Conservation Camps are offered in conjunction with the Northeast Indiana Conservation Districts as a way children can experience our natural resources. This 1-day program (offered 3 different days during the summer) is geared toward ages 9 to 13.  Sustainable agriculture is mainly taught by teaching children to conserve all resources.  These Conservation Camps have been offered in this format since 2011.

Duck Days is a program that was started nearly 20 years ago where 7th grade students from area schools joined members of Ducks Unlimited to learn about wildlife and habitat.  Since that time, Duck Days has grown, geared towards teaching students more about natural resource conservation.  The Steuben SWCD has participated in Duck Days since 2012.  At this educational event, we focus primarily on water quality and soil health.  This past September, we were able to utilize a Watershed/Nonpoint Source 3D EnviroScape® model to provide hands-on, interactive demonstration of the sources and effects of water pollution.  This model allowed us the ability to demonstrate how storm water runoff carries pollutants through the watershed to bodies of water, and best management practices that can be used to prevent this from occurring.  Students could place filter strips or WASCOBS (water and sediment control basins) on the 3D model to illustrate minimizing soil loss and lost field productivity.  Annually, an average of 400 students attend this event.

Lastly, we have been offering the YCFD education event since 1985 to give students a better understanding and appreciation of our natural resources and the need for conservation. Receiving his North Central Region – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant has helped us enhance the experience and education for one of our most important resources, our youth.

The goal was to provide students with a base knowledge/foundation to show them the importance of conserving our natural resources. All of our sessions touched on the importance of a healthy ecosystem, but our soil health session focused primarily on the importance of topsoil and its importance to the future of sustainable farming. 

Steps involved in conducting the project include:

*Early in the year (February/March): We hold a meeting with Purdue Extension to review the previous YCFD and make suggested changes/improvements for the current year.

*May: Schools are contacted to gauge interest in participating on the selected date of YCFD for the fall.  They are also asked for input on any suggested changes they would like to see implemented.

*July: Speakers are contacted to lead sessions.  The agenda and quiz materials are developed.

*August: Educational materials are ordered/sorted.  Agenda is finalized and forwarded to our speakers by the end of the month.  We solicit our partners and Steuben County community for assistants to help with conducting the YCFD.  Agendas are forwarded to those day helpers.  All schools are re-contacted and sent an agenda and the rules for the YCFD.  Prior to the field day, materials and quizzes are provided to the schools to compliment the educational sessions.

*September/fall: Post-tests are analyzed and all speakers, helpers, and facility partners are sent thank you letters.  Potawatomi Inn sales coordinator is contacted to set-up dates for the Youth Conservation Field Day at least 2-years prior to the event.

A standard planning approach is utilized to set up this educational event.

The following individuals assisted with this project:

Janet Bohney, Steuben County Lakes Council
Role: Water Monitoring Presenter (2014 volunteer)

Jake Carlisle, Indiana Conservation Officer - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Role: Water/Water Safety Presenter (2014/2015 volunteer)

Gene Diehl, Steuben SWCD Board Member/Local Farmer
Role: Group Leader and Bus Loading/Unloading (2014/2015 volunteer)

Kayleen Hart, Administrative Coordinator, Steuben Soil and Water Conservation District
Role: Primary Planner/Preparer of YCFD (2014/2015).

Marjorie Hershman, Interpreter, Pokagon State Park - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Role: Wildlife Presenter (2014 volunteer)

Jacob Hougham, Crowe Forest Management, LLC
Role: Forestry Presenter (2015 volunteer)

Alexander Ingersoll, Fawn River State Fish Hatchery Laborer - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Role: Group Leader (2015 volunteer)

Debra Jimison, Conservationist - Elkhart Soil and Water Conservation District
Role: Group Leader (2015 volunteer)

Jeff Klink, Steuben SWCD Associate Supervisor/Local Farmer
Role: Bus Unloader (2014/2015 volunteer)

Larry Koza, Fisheries Biologist - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Role: Fisheries Management Presenter (2014/2015 volunteer)

Jennifer Krause, Allen County Resident
Role: Group Leader (2015 volunteer)

Jill Krause, Resource Specialist - Division of Soil Conservation, Indiana State Department of Agriculture
Role: Group Leader (2015 volunteer)

Marie Laudemann, Interpreter, Pokagon State Park - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Role: Wildlife presenter (2015 volunteer)

Janel Meyer, Resource Conservationist/Administrative Coordinator - Steuben Soil and Water Conservation District
Role: Secondary Planner/Preparer for YCFD (2015).

Tami Mosier, Extension Educator 4-H/Youth Development – Steuben County Cooperative Extension Service
Role: 4-H Natural Resource Projects/Entomology presenter (2014/2015 volunteer)

Brian Musser, District Conservationist – Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Role: Soils presenter (2015 volunteer)

Sue Myers, Steuben County Lakes Council/Steuben County Resident
Role: Group Leader (2014/2015 volunteer)

Hilary Price, Events Coordinator, Potawatomi Inn Banquet & Conference Center
Role: Contract Coordinator (Potawatomi Inn provides the facility free of charge)

Jennifer Thum, District Support Specialist – Division of Soil Conservation, Indiana State Department of Agriculture
Role: Group Leader (2015 volunteer)

Zac Martin, Resource Conservationist – Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District
Role: Soils presenter (2014)

Fred Wooley, Interpreter - Pokagon State Park, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Role: Wildlife Presenter (2014)

The following Schools, Principals and Teachers assisted with this project:

Carlin Park Elementary School: Mrs. Tomlin, Mr. John Curtis, Ms. Amanda Jolin, and Mrs. Dawn Rowe

Pleasant Lake Elementary School: Ms. Ann Antos and Ms. Angie Bussard

Hendry Park Elementary School: Ms. Deana Baird, Mr. Matt Newhard, and Ms. Erin Strieler

Fremont Elementary School: T. Floto, Mrs. Sattison, Ms. Gayle Camp, Ms. Cindy Callahan, and Ms. Candee Arnold

Ryan Park Elementary School: Ms. Michele Davis, Ms. Marianne Wade, and Ms. Laurie Gentry

The following Sponsors Assisted with Educational Materials/Supplies, Facilities, etc.:

Allen County Partnership for Water Quality and
City of Angola/Trine University Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Committee
Role: “Storm Water” Educational/Activity Booklet

Northeast Indiana Solid Waste District
Role: Education Material (pencils/bracelets) and $300.00 donation/year for Dumpster Drummers (2014/2015)

Potawatomi Inn
Role: provides venue free of charge

Steuben County Lakes Council
Role: “Learn about Water Conservation” Educational/Activity Booklet

Steuben County Purdue Extension Agency (4H)
Role: Educational Materials (2014/2015)

Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District
Role: “Search for Soil” Educational/Activity Booklet and T-Shirts

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
Role: Grant provider for Educational Materials (2014/2015)

Since we know how many students we would impact through enrollment rosters from the fourth grade teachers, we utilized a pre and post-test survey for the attendees. The pre-test was administered approximately two weeks prior to the event; the post-test was given within a week after.  The result we anticipated was an increase in the correct number of questions answered related to ecologically sound sustainable agriculture and natural resources.

Students improved 41.6% and 33.2% between the pre and post-tests in 2014 and 2015, respectively (i.e. total number of questions answered correctly). For the questions related to reducing soil erosion, in 2014, there was a 29.2% increase in the percentage of students answering the question correctly in the post-test.  In 2015, that number increased to 82.5%.

We received positive feedback from all of the teachers involved, especially with the soils session and the use of the soil erosion boxes. The SWCD tried to incorporate as many demonstration/hands-on projects as possible to effectively impact student’s learning.  Demonstrating principles and ideas creates a greater understanding and knowledge of any subject, which is evident in the improved scores noted between the pre and post-testing scores.


The mission of the Steuben SWCD is to be the lead facilitator who ensures that the natural resources of Steuben County area are used wisely and are there for future generations. Education has always been a priority at the SWCD, and this project assisted in helping us remain at the forefront of achieving this goal.  Our educational events provide youth the opportunity to learn more about our natural resources.  We want to impart a love/respect for these resources early, and teach the importance of why conserving them is important.

The SWCD leaned that field days such as the YCFD emphasizes the value of teaching children about conservation and sustainable farming. These children seem to really understand the importance of conserving our natural resources and grasped the concepts from the day (i.e. shown by the survey results), and will hopefully grow up to pass on what they have learned.  Many times the children actually teach the parents, as they take what they have learned home to discuss it.

The Steuben SWCD shared this project through press releases with the local newspaper and radio stations, and also promoted the field day in our newsletter, on our website, and Facebook accounts.

The field day was also highlighted in formal and informal office presentations to the community throughout the year. We frequently present to area groups about what projects our office is involved in, and our agencies mission.

Please see attached documentation.

The following presentations/outreach activities featured this project:

Green Expo Display: What is an SWCD (2/15/2014); attendance = 10
SWCD Annual Report; listed under our “educational activities” section
SWCD Annual Meeting (3/5/2014); attendance = 60
Pigeon Creek Steering Committee Meeting (7/8/2014); attendance = 8
SWCD Summer 2014 Newsletter (attached – page 3)
Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Conservation Update (9/10/2014; attached – pages 5 and 6)
SWCD Board Meeting (9/10/2014); attendance = 8
YCFD Press Release (9/16/2014; attached – page 7)
Steuben County Lakes Council Monthly Meeting (10/4/2014); attendance = 30
Pigeon Creek Steering Committee Meeting (10/15/2014); attendance = 9
Steuben County Lakes Council (Soundings - Fall Newsletter 2014; attached – pages 8-9)
Green Expo: What is an SWCD (2/21/2015); attendance = 10
SWCD Annual Meeting (3/4/2015); attendance = 60
Pigeon Creek Steering Committee Meeting (8/20/2015); attendance = 8
YCFD Press Release (9/11/2015); (note, submitted to KPC News but was not published, attached – pages 10-11)
Steuben County Lakes Council Monthly Meeting (10/4/2015); attendance = 30
SWCD Board Meeting (10/8/2014); attendance = 8
SWCD Fall 2015 Newsletter (attached – pages 12 – 15)
SWCD Board Meeting (11/10/2015); attendance = 6
Pigeon Creek Steering Committee Meeting (11/18/2015); attendance = 10
Annie’s Project (12/1/2015); attendance = 6

The NCR-SARE Youth Educator Grant program started in 2008. As a participant, do you have any recommendations for the regional Administrative Council about this program?  Is there anything you would like to see changed?

No recommendations or suggested for changes at this time.

final report for Kayleen Hart YENC14-071


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  • Zachary Martin
  • Tami Mosier
  • Brian Musser
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.