Drake University, Metro Waste Authority, and Southeast Polk School District all share a passion for providing students with opportunities to engage in environmental science-related activities, which is why they have collaborated to create the Metro Waste and Drake Environmental Learning Center—a project that is nearly seven years in the making.
“We are very fortunate to have established a great working relationship with Keith Summerville and Drake University for the Environmental Learning Center,” says Tom Hadden, executive director of Metro Waste Authority. “Our goal is to establish an exceptional place to view and learn about the various ecosystems of central Iowa.”
Summerville, associate professor of environmental science at Drake, has worked closely with Metro Waste Authority and Southeast Polk School District to provide the University and high school students, teachers, and administrators the opportunity to grow their understanding and appreciation of the natural environment, as well as their math and science skills.
This summer, Summerville and Drake students Andrew Rupiper and Caitlin Ryan helped plan and facilitate two summer camps at the center, which is located two miles east of Southeast Polk High School. One camp was designed for students and the other for teachers and administrators.
“It’s amazing how many students have never been out in the environment like that,” says Rupiper. “I’ve enjoyed helping them learn about the outdoors—we actually get them out in the prairie and in the streams. We expose them to Iowa in a different way. And we help teachers see that there’s more to science than sitting and reading a textbook.”
Drake is also involved with leading field trips to the center, as well as conducting research and improving the health of the ecosystems.
“The environmental learning center has become a site for deep experiential learning opportunities,” says Summerville. “Drake students are getting hands-on experience, mentoring students, and conducting research. We’re grateful to be part of it.”