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Admission into Jester Park
& the Nature Center is FREE

High School Programs

Polk County Conservation has actively been teaching conservation education to the citizens of Polk County for over 20 years. Unfortunately, most high school educators are unaware of the incredible opportunities we can provide for your students.

Conservation education is not just about bats, bugs, and butterflies. We also teach about ecological principles, and outdoor recreation. Polk County Conservation has four full-time and one part-time professional naturalists on staff. Our naturalists have Bachelor of Science degrees from accredited colleges in areas such as fisheries and wildlife biology and animal ecology.

These programs have been specifically designed to compliment current high school science curriculums. Not only do the programs strengthen science topics, but several programs also tailor to social study topics. These programs are free of charge, highly informative, and focus specifically on issues within Iowa.

All programs are free except for any field trip involving canoes and/or kayaks. The $50 fee helps cover the cost of transportation and equipment replacement. To schedule a program or field trip, please open and download the Program Request Form, complete and email it to or call Patrice Petersen-Keys at (515)323-5359. Our schedule fills up quickly in the fall and spring, so schedule early. We ask that you call at least one week in advance prior to your preferred program time.

Ecological and Biological Programs

Careers in Conservation - There is more to the conservation world than "Ranger Rick". Students will learn about different career options in the conservation field.

Endangered Species in Iowa - We've all heard about the elephants and pandas, but what about the endangered species in Iowa. Students will learn what species in Iowa are endangered and why.

Evolution and Adaptations - You don't have to travel to the Galapagos Islands to study adaptations. Students will learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and see a variety of Iowa animals with outstanding examples of adaptations.

The People Vs Wildlife - What happened to Iowa's wildlife and the habitat they once called home? Where did they go and will they ever return? Students will learn the history of Iowa's wildlife and habitats and what the future may hold for both.

Vertebrates of Iowa - From red fox to fox snakes, students will learn what types of vertebrates live in Iowa and how to identify them. Live animals may be used if available.

Water Water Everywhere - Iowa is continually faced with water quality issues. Students will learn the history of Iowa's waterways and what affects them. Modern techniques currently being used to improve water quality will also be discussed using a 3-dimensional landscape model. Hands-on water quality testing can also be included into the program.

Iowa History and Cultural Programs

Animals of Iowa – What animals used to live in Iowa? What happened to them and where did they go. Students will find out the answers to theses questions as we discuss the history of Iowa's land and how it affected the wildlife.

Landforms - What's an ice age and what causes it? What's a glacier and where did it come from? Students will learn the effects of erosion and glaciers and how those forces sculpted Iowa's landscape. Terms such as morians, eskers, and drumlins will also be discussed.

Prairie Heritage - Visit with a pioneer woman as she describes what life is like on the prairie. This unique program teaches students about life on the prairie in a fun, first-person, reenactment program. Authentic pioneer props will be used.

Outdoor Recreation & Field Trips

Ice Fishing - Students will learn the basics of ice fishing and ice safety. Participants will get hands on experience. We'll provide the poles, you provide the bait.

Fishing - You bring the worms and we'll bring the poles. Students will learn basic fishing techniques and how to identify some common fish in Iowa's ponds and streams. We have enough poles for each student.

Kayaking & Canoeing - Students will learn the basics of canoeing/kayaking by getting hands on experience. Canoes, kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and instruction will be provided.

Orienteering - Students will learn to find their way through the world using a compass. We’ll provide equipment and instruction.

Snowshoes - Looking for something fun to do with your students this winter? Give snowshoeing a try. Polk County has purchased 30 pairs of snowshoes for students and the public to enjoy. A naturalist can lead your group on an animal track hike.

Prairie Hike - Students will learn about this disappearing habitat and the plants and animals that call it home. Live bison and elk can be incorporated into this field trip at Jester Park only.

Pond Study - Discover the macro life in a pond through water sampling. Students will also perform water quality tests and discuss issues affecting Iowa's waterways.

Marsh Study - (Engeldinger Marsh) Stomp through a murky wetland looking for animal life. Students will learn the importance of wetlands and water quality and how this unique area was formed.

Survival Skills -Learn basic survival skills and other things to make you more comfortable in the outdoors. From how to identify poisonous plants to how to dress for the outdoors, students will learn what one item is the most important in a survival situation.

Woodland Hike - Take a hike through an Iowa woodland habitat. Students will learn the history of Iowa's woodlands and the surrounding ecology. Tree identification can also be incorporated.

Need a volunteer project?

Are your students looking for volunteer opportunities that will expose them to the “wild” side of conservation? PCC offers several fun ways to volunteer throughout the year. Students that enjoy working with the public, being outdoors, are enthusiastic about wildlife, or like to preserve natural resources would benefit from opportunities we have to offer.

If you know of a student that is interested in the outdoors and would like to become involved through volunteerism, please have them contact Pat Spain, Planning and Outreach Coordinator at 515-323-5280 or