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Teachers from seven Iowa communities to brainstorm flood education

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | NOVEMBER 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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After witnessing two severe floods in recent years, various departments of the University of Iowa are collaborating to develop a new arsenal to fight the force of nature — education.

Teachers from more than seven Iowa communities will converge on Iowa City this weekend to participate in a three-day Interdisciplinary Flood Institute organized by the UI College of Education.

The Flood Institute — which aims at developing and training teachers to incorporate flood education in their curriculum — is a part of the Living with Floods project that was first thought about in February 2011.

The project will kick off Friday with guest teachers working with faculty from the UI College of Education and College of Engineering, to develop curricula they will take back to their schools and roll out to students in the spring.

Participating teachers belong to various departments of education ranging from science and math to arts and English. The goal is to create an interdisciplinary curriculum for flood education in Iowa.
UI Professor Greg Hamot, the coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Flood Institute, stressed the importance of flood education.

“This sort of education does at least two things,” he wrote in an email. “First, it will maintain a living memory of these life-changing natural events. Second, it will give students the opportunity to build a vision of the future in their areas and communities that will be more adept at addressing the effects of a natural disaster.”

Hancher Auditorium, which was severely damaged by floodwaters in 2008, is one of the participating departments.

“What I really truly like about this is that this is an interdisciplinary project,” said Charles Swanson, the Hancher executive director. “It is not only about science and geography, but the arts are a part of it, too, and writing is a part of it. It just shows that to come back from a disaster such as a flood, it takes everybody to bring us back from something like that.”

Underlining the importance of multi-department education, Leslie Flynn, one of the coordinators of the project, said the approach of having a common goal in various academic departments is relatively new, and more importantly, has a strong effect.

“No matter what class you’re in, every single person is going to study how to fix floods,” said Flynn, also a clinical instructor in the UI College of Education. “It is important to Iowans because we have had the floods. Imagine the kinds of conversations students will have if this interdisciplinary approach is implemented.”

One of the first things teachers will learn at the institute is the art of working with other academic departments toward a common goal, she said.

However, the project is not all about education. It has a nostalgic aspect to it.

Swanson talked about the role this project plays in commemorating the 2008 and 2011 Iowa floods.

“What we want to do with this is look at how far we have come and what we have learned from that experience,” he said. “What I love about the entire project is that there is such a spirit of collaboration within the university and throughout the state.”


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