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Carl Bollwinkel joined the Lab School Science Department in 1981 to bring his expertise in biology to the middle school grades and a focus on environmental education to all Lab School students. Bollwinkel’s 1969 doctoral dissertation was in botany at the University of Southern Illinois, and he brought to it a childhood passion for photography which changed to nature photography during his graduate school days. After graduation, he began creating a series of slides and filmstrips for use in elementary and junior and senior high schools: Plant Classification: How Botanists Classify Plants (1978); Adaptations: The Key to Survival (1978); The Community Concept: Interaction of Living Things (1978); Succession: Communities Change Over Time (1978); Environmental Issues: A Question of Values (1978); Ecological Factors: Biotic & Abiotic (1978); Problems of Coastal Zone Management (1980); and The Classification of Lower Plants: Algae and Fungi (1980). 

Bollwinkel continued producing slides and filmstrips for science education after joining the Lab School faculty. These included: North American Biomes (1981); The Deciduous Forest Biome (1981); Erosion by Water & Ice Set (1982); Cells of Plants: Structure & Function (1982); Cells of Animals: Structure & Function (1982); Meiosis: Chromosome Reduction & Cell Division (1982); and Mitosis: Nuclear Duplication & Cell Division (1982). In 1984, Bollwinkel’s black and white photograph of three Lab School students collecting prairie grass seeds at a railroad prairie remnant near the Waterloo airport won first place in The Science Teacher’s first photo contest. The students’ project was to collect tall grass seeds, treat them over the winter, and then plant them in the prairie restoration near the southeast edge of the UNI campus. In 1989, Bollwinkel offered a 3-day Nature Photography Workshop which invited K-12 teachers to study the art and science of photography through the beauty of prairies and woodlands. 

In the late 1980s, Bollwinkel began his Environmental Education Issues (EEI) program which, over the decades, led the way—and sounded early alarms—on matters even more urgent in the twenty-first century. A 1989 Bollwinkel program taught junior high students the importance of rain forests. Through a $75,346 state of Iowa REAP grant (Resource Enhancement & Protection) in 1990, he developed an “Environmental Issues Instruction” model for grade school teachers. The teachers would attend a weekend workshop in the fall on an environmental issue; then develop and teach to their students a unit on the topic; and then return for a follow- up workshop in the spring. Workshop topics over the years included “Preserving Biodiversity: Endangered Species”; “Global Climate Change”; “Climate Change and El Nino”; “Iowa’s Greenhouse Gases”; “Forests in Changing Climate”; “Tropical Rain Forests”; “Global Warming”: “Preserving Wetlands”; “Conservation of Iowa’s Vegetation”; and “Rain, Runoff, & River” (which addressed watersheds and flooding problems). 

Bollwinkel’s 1990 Lab School programs on “Global Climate” and “Tropical Rain Forests” piloted his case study model. “Each issue has to come home to Iowa youngsters,” Bollwinkel explained. “If we’re talking about global climate change, students need to understand why a change in the earth’s atmosphere could affect whether or not Iowans continue to grow corn and soybeans.” After thorough investigation of an issue, students sought to determine responsible environmental action, “whether it’s persuasion (talking to parents),” Bollwinkel said, “political action, [or] physical action or consumerism (buying Brazil nuts at the grocery story to support people of the tropical rain forest).” Cara Hankins, a Lab School eighth grader, knew nothing of rain forests when she began. After researching the subject and writing reports on monkeys in the rain forest, Hankins and other students called the managers of both local McDonald’s to ask if their restaurants used tropical rain forest land for grazing cattle. “One of the managers came and talked to us about the issue and the need for more trees everywhere,” Hankins reported. “Then he donated two maple trees to our school. Once we got going on the rain forest investigation, it was so much fun we couldn’t stop.” Hankins also collected and donated $25 to the Nature Conservancy’s effort to purchase and conserve tropical rain forest land. 

With Barbara Bonnett and Rosalie Cochran, Bollwinkel developed and published Ecoquest unit kits. In 1998, his co-authored book Climate and Disease: A Critical Connection was published by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies along with his co-authored Beyond the Bite: Mosquitoes and Malaria.

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