“Building Youth Conservation Leadership Capacity through Project-Based Learning” was a three year pilot program that aimed to create a framework that provided engaging and authentic hands on learning experiences with the flexibility necessary for integration into the variety of high school classrooms and communities across the State of Iowa. Using a multidisciplinary project based approach, students would conduct research, personal interviews, field studies, analyze and interpret data, and ultimately communicate their findings to the public and industry professionals through multimedia presentations.

Key Question

Can connecting students to the natural world inspire youth and the community to play more active roles in civic engagement, particularly related to environmental sustainability?


Working with Laura McCreery at Davenport North High School to pilot this project, the first class began in August 2017. This course concluded in October 2017, with students pitching projects to Davenport Public Works, who selected projects for funding and implementation. These projects included: constructing litter stations at local elementary schools and fundraising for a rain garden at Nahant Marsh. The next class occurred in the spring of 2018 and they planned a Watershed Expo at the RiverCenter in downtown Davenport in March of 2018 where around 300 people attended the event. The third cohort to take the course worked to rehabilitate the rain gardens in the front of the school. This group of students also contacted a local elementary school to bring a class onsite for a field day involving the rain garden and other outdoor, water-related activities. The project website, www.thewatershedprojectiowa.org, hosts the framework in its entirety, organized by the four steps of the Project Cycle: Define, Plan, Do, and Review. The framework includes exemplars, templates, toolkits, models and other resources for teachers implementing the project to use and to contribute their own.

Principal Investigator(s)

Melissa Miller

Year of Grant Completion