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Education: K-12 Education and Outreach


Wetland Station

K-12 Education

Environmental education is important to the Dakota County Soil & Water Conservation District! We love creative, hands-on programs that teach kids about clean water, pollinators and native plants, and how we can all have an impact on our environment! Are you a teacher, parent, or interested student? Read on for more information on some of the programs we run or participate in, for youth in Dakota County.

For more information on any of the SWCD's programs, please email swcd@co.dakota.mn.us with "Education and Outreach" in the subject line.

Outdoor Education Days
When: Every September
Who: Local fifth graders and their teachers and chaperones
Where: The restored native prairie at the Dakota County Fairgrounds

Every year in September, local fifth grade classrooms get the chance to experience a 220-acre native prairie ecosystem while traveling between hands-on, educational stations. They learn about water quality, soil, agriculture, insects, and prairie plants from a host of experts, and experience a trail through the tall grass of the prairie. A thousand or more students from eight different schools participate in Outdoor Education Days every year!

The educational stations are taught by local experts from the Dakota Soil & Water Conservation District, the University of Minnesota Extension Service and Minnesota 4-H, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Dakota County Parks, and the National Park Service. Thank you to our amazing partners!

Minnesota Envirothon
When: Every year in late spring/early summer
Who: Junior and senior high school students

The Envirothon is Minnesota's largest environmental education competition! Junior High (grades 6-8) and Senior High (grades 9-12) students from around the state learn about natural resources and the environment, discover new career options, collaborate as a team, and compete by taking exams, completing real-world scenarios, and giving oral presentations. Students compete in teams of five, on topics including aquatic ecosystems, forestry, soils, and wildlife. Dakota County schools start by competing at the Metro Area Envirothon. The top three teams in the region will move on to the State competition, where they compete to represent Minnesota at the national competition over the summer.

2019 Metro Area Envirothon Information:

The 2019 Metro Area Envirothon will be held on Thursday, May 2nd at the U of M Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, MN.

Planting a Raingarden or Native Garden at your School

Does your school have space for a new garden? Are you interested in learning how to design and install a raingarden or native garden that will help local water quality, provide habitat for pollinators, and be an educational tool for your school's students? School staff or teachers can attend our Landscaping for Clean Water workshops and get expert help in designing a project for your site. If you complete a garden on-site, SWCD Education staff will share resources and ideas for sharing information about the project and incorporating it into lesson plans.

Learn more at dakotaswcd.org/cleanwater.html.

Vermillion River Watch Program

The Vermillion River Watch Program is an educational stream monitoring program offered, in conjunction with the Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization, to middle and high school classes throughout Dakota County. Students who participate in this program will get hands on experience monitoring water quality (temperature, transparency, streamflow), collecting biological samples, and to observe the physical habitat in and along the streambanks. Students will also learn macroinvertebrate identification techniques, along with data entry and analysis skills.

Teachers or community groups who wish to participate in the Vermillion River Watch Program are asked to contact Lindsey Albright, Water Resource Specialist with the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District, at lindsey.albright@co.dakota.mn.us or 651-480-7783 for more information.

Support for this program is funded by the Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization.

For more information on opportunities and resources for conservation education for your students in Dakota County, please email SWCD@co.dakota.mn.us with "K-12 Education" in the subject line.

Other Programs and Resources from Our Partners:

  • 4-H Club: 4-H: Youth Development is a youth program that increases leadership skills, provides service to the community, and offers education about agriculture and the environment. Get involved and compete in fairs, learn about mechanical sciences, or judge competitions. Call 651-480-7752 or visit Dakota County 4-H for more information.

  • Minnesota Conservation Corps: The Minnesota Conservation Corps provides hands-on environmental stewardship and service-learning opportunities to youth and young adults while accomplishing priority cost-effective conservation, natural resource management projects and emergency response work across the state. The Dakota County SWCD works with apprentices and crews from the Minnesota Conservation Corps each year to accomplish conservation projects that we couldn't do without their help! Visit the link to learn more about opportunities for youth and young adults ages 15-25, in Dakota County and across Minnesota.

  • USDA-Kids: USDA Kids is a US Department of Agriculture sponsored website made just for kids to learn about agriculture, food and the environment. Visit USDA for Kids online.