November 3, 2011

Children’s CD Available – A Great Christmas Gift Idea

By Carol Brown
Iowa State University Extension Scott County

A new children’s music CD from Iowa Learning Farms, “Dogs, Frogs and Nature Songs,” has just been released. The CD is all about nature, conservation and learning. The CD has 21 songs composed, arranged and performed by Ames and Story County residents who comprise the group Joyful Hearts. The CD was created for the Ames Public Library.

“Dogs, Frogs and Nature Songs” is a collection of familiar kids’ songs, but with a new twist. Many of the songs on the CD are adaptations of old favorites, but with new sounds and lyrics about natural resources. For example, the familiar song “Itsy Bitsy Spider” has been turned into a rap song. Several songs are original including “Conservation Dogs,” “What Does a River Want to do?” and “Too Soon for Goodnight Moon.”

The CD is the outcome of a conversation last summer during a joint Ames Public Library Bookmobile and Conservation Station stop, when a library employee remarked to Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) program coordinator Jacqueline Comito that the library was looking for a band to record some kids’ music for their Story Time. Comito, who is the vocalist for Joyful Hearts, immediately offered up the group.

“I thought that we could expand on the theme of teaching kids about environmental literacy and what better way than through music?” said Comito. The CD project emerged out of a collaboration with Ames Public Library, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Iowa Learning Farms.

The music CD is much more than some cute kids’ music. Comito carefully chose songs that had nature themes and rewrote lyrics to meet at least one of the six criteria of children’s literacy that the Library’s Project Smyles strives to highlight: print motivation, print awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills, vocabulary and phonological awareness. For example, the song “BINGO” helps kids to identify with letter knowledge, and “Too Soon for Goodnight Moon” offers print awareness and print motivation. The song is an original piece and names many popular children’s books in the lyrics.

Iowa Learning Farms staff visits schools and outdoor classrooms all across the state, teaching kids from kindergarten through high school about soil and water quality. They travel to most events with the Conservation Station, a mobile learning lab resource for teaching about conservation. ILF developed the elementary school-aged lessons using a popular medium to tell the conservation story — dogs.

The ILF Conservation Dogs teach about soil and water—natural resources that dogs love—through photos and story sharing with the kids. The kids then become members of the “Conservation Pack” by pledging to do their part to help preserve soil and water. Ames Public Library also uses the big, blue dog, “Smyles,” who is a regular at Story Time, preschools and daycare centers. Smyles is a member of the Conservation Pack, too.

“Dogs, Frogs and Nature Songs” is available through the Ames Public Library for $10, with all proceeds going back to Project Smyles. Purchase a copy in person or visit the Project Smyles page on the website: For more information about Iowa Learning Farms and the Conservation Station, visit the ILF website:

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