The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is Wednesday but the pandemic has forced the cancellation of environmental awareness activities, including the Iowa State University Extension program “Water Rocks!”

The staff visits Iowa schools throughout the year to hold water quality assemblies. Outreach specialist Hilary Pierce says students are urged to commemorate Earth Day by gathering objects from nature to create works of art. “And then snap a photo of it and share it with us on social media,” Pierce says. “We will enter that into our contest where winners will be selected based on who gets the most shares, who has the most creative ideas, and we will be giving out prizes.”

Pierce says Earth Day served as an inspiration for “Water Rocks!” to begin publishing four short weekly educational videos on YouTube. Half are original music performances about the environment and the others are classroom lessons. Also as part of Earth Day, the Iowa Environmental Council is encouraging people to make changes they may not have otherwise considered.

The council’s spokeswoman, Angelisa Belden, says while many are working from home during Earth Week, they can pay attention to personal energy and product consumption. “This situation has had us start to think more about the ways that we get them into our homes, how quickly we use them,” Belden says. “People are just more aware of how quickly they’re putting items into the recycling bins because they’re home all day. I think it makes you more aware of your consumption and that’s a good thing.”

The Iowa Environmental Council will release a report this week proposing how the state can meet electricity demands by 2050 without using fossil fuels.

(By John Pemble, Iowa Public Radio)