The statewide program has expanded to serve communities across Iowa
Tuesday, May 30, 2023

School of the Wild takes interactive learning to the extreme.

Housed in the University of Iowa College of Education, the statewide initiative partners with schools across the state to give kids an opportunity to learn about the natural world through immersion.

The program is centered on elementary and middle school children and provides a weeklong interactive experience at parks in and around the area.

School of the Wild started as a dream. Literally.

Founder and current University of Iowa Wildlife Instruction and Leadership Development Director Dave Conrads was leading wildlife camps in Iowa when he noticed a prevalent issue in enrollment.

“We saw really great growth in those campers, but one thing I noticed was that the kids who were attending at that time were primarily kids that came from families with disposable income,” Conrads said.

In 1997, Conrads dreamed about a program that could bring wildlife education and experiences to children of all economic backgrounds. He woke up at 4 a.m. to jot down notes about what he had imagined, and 25 years later, those notes remain the framework for the School of the Wild.

In the past five years, the program has started expanding outside of the Iowa City area. School of the Wild now offers programming in 36 Iowa counties. There are 83 schools participating and collaborating with School of the Wild, according to its website.

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