From the ground up: Virtual conference teaches families how to be ‘green’

Learn more about winter bird at Indian Creek Nature Center

Published: December 15 2013 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:51 am in

The weather has changed and families are spending less time outside and more under the same roof. By now, the novelty is wearing thin and everyone is looking for something new to do together. Perhaps you and your partner have an interest in improving the environment. Kristi Cooper, family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has an idea for you.

Q: My family wants to learn how to be more “green.” I want my children to be involved in making decisions that honor the earth, our financial resources and keep us healthy at the same time.

A: The ISU Eco Family Virtual Conference is for adults and children who want to learn to live green in 2014. Families across Iowa will be getting together — virtually — once a month from January through June for an Eco Family Virtual Conference from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. It’s an opportunity for your household to improve the environment, reduce your carbon footprint and create community as you participate in a do-as-you-learn format. The online conference is designed with families in mind so everyone can participate and benefit, even families with young children.

Once enrolled in the conference, families will have access to an online “flipped classroom” full of educational videos, software to create personal avatar videos, family activities and other resources to explore for one month before the session. On the first Thursday of each month, January through June, participants will share during the 90-minute session what they have learned and experienced. As a group, they will have the opportunity to create action plans for their family and community.

The 2014 Virtual Eco Family Conference online sessions will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the first Thursdays of the month on the following topics:

  • Jan. 2 — Energy (materials available Dec. 1).
  • Feb. 6 — The New Economy (materials available Jan. 3).
  • March 6 — Food and Genetic Engineering (materials available Feb. 7).
  • April 3 — Air Quality (materials available March 7).
  • May 1 — We Are Nature (materials available April 4).
  • June 5 — Water (materials available May 2).

To participate in the conference, families need a computer with high-speed Internet access, speakers or headphones and a microphone. Registration is available at The registration fee for the six-session virtual conference is $70. Registration also can be made by the session; fee is $15 per session. Once registered, participants will receive login directions for accessing the virtual classroom for all conference sessions.

This is the third year the Eco Family Virtual Conference series has been offered. Families choose their goals and learn ways to save money, improve the environment, and, best of all — have fun together. Hope you will join us this year.


Bringing Home Nature: Winter Birds, 1 p.m. Saturday at Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. The program rolls out the welcome mat for the small but hearty backyard birds of winter. Learn which birds are residents year round and which migrate to Iowa for the winter? What do they like to eat? Visit our bird blind to watch the feeder action and build your own feeder from recycled materials. Dress for the outdoors. Cost: $2 to $5. Register: or (319) 362-0664.

Questions on gardening, land use or local foods? Contact Michelle Kenyon Brown, community ag programs manager at Linn County Extension,

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Is there other feedback and/or ideas you want to share with us? Tell us here.

Featured Jobs from