Module 4 - Planting the seeds for conservation

People in a field banner

In the final module of the program we shift our focus from ecosystems and practices to the people involved in conservation. Without engaging the people who make decisions and share their experiences on the land, we'll never be able to achieve the standards of sustainability set forth in the conservation movement. Although a good number of conservationist feel more at home among wild things and wild places than in crowds, making conservation mainstream will require that all conservationists engage with their community. This session will explore how people are engaged in conservation and some effective ways to increase engagement at the local level.

At the end of this session, participants should:

  1. Understand how people receive messages about conservation and how those messages or experiences may change behavior.
  2. Learn skills for effective communication about conservation to diverse audiences. 

Before coming to the in-person session, complete the following elements.

  1. Watch the recorded lecture on Building a Culture of Conservation (48 minutes; download PDF of slides in color or black and white) by Dr. Jacqueline Comito as she takes an anthropological perspective on the history and current status of conservation in North America and Iowa and explores how to frame conservation in a way that resonates and motivates people through their sense of place and space, spirituality, and compelling messages and messengers.

Before coming to the last in-person session, reflect on the topics we've covered in each module and how you may be able to apply the information you've learned. We will specifically revisit the question raised at the beginning of the class:

What’s your “conservation elevator speech”?

That is, if you were only given a few seconds to describe what conservation means to you and why others should care, what would you say? How would you craft a compelling message? Who would or should you share it with?

Supplemental resources

References supporting materials covered in this module. Explore as you have time and interest!

Episodes of Iowa Land and Sky program
The Iowa Land and Sky program from Iowa Public Broadcasting has a wonderful library of short, educational videos about Iowa's landscapes and ecology. Here's a list of episodes that add to the focus of this module.

General resources

  • To hear from many of the voices involved in conservation in Iowa from farms to cities, check out past episodes of the Conservation Chat podcast from Iowa Learning Farms.
  • A recent national survey effort called The Nature of Americans evaluated how people connect to and value natural resources in the United States. The Key Findings of that survey effort offer interesting insights and recommendations for reconnecting people, particularly children, to nature.
  • Water Quality Matters to us All is a 2011 report from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach about Iowan's attitudes towards water quality.


  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, (2006) by Richard Louv
  • The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, (2012) by Richard Louv
  • Silent Spring, (1962) by Rachel Carson

Volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved or learn more


Do you have ideas for how we can improve this online module? Did we miss a resource that you think should be included? Were elements too long or too short? Too technical or not technical enough? Please help us improve the Master Conservationist Program by providing feedback on this short online form?