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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

February 2000

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Sharing for success

DNR educators offer fresh ideas and new lesson plans.

Mittsy Voiles, Al Stenstrup and Carrie Morgan

Making the rounds
EE News: Required reading for up-to-date environmental educators
The Earth Day Flag - a sign of success
Connecting with educators | Community partnerships
Education for the new century
Table of Contents | How to order printed copies

Making the rounds

Hundreds of feet approach rapidly. As the rumble becomes a dull roar, DNR staff calmly stand their ground. Elk stampede? Nope, the exhibit area has just opened at a teacher convention. Elementary and high school teachers make a beeline to the DNR booth. Posters, study guides, fact sheets – every item on the table is studied, evaluated, and gleefully pocketed. Most materials are free or cost very little.

At convention workshops teachers can get curriculum materials such as Project WILD and Project Learning Tree from DNR staff, and receive training on incorporating environmental education into all subject areas, from science to the arts. DNR educators who offer workshops get ideas and suggestions from participants, and return in following years with new materials.

DNR educators staff annual conventions sponsored by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers, Wisconsin Elementary and Middle Level Science Teachers, and regional conventions, too. Stop by our booth!

Mittsy Voiles is an air and waste communication and education specialist with the DNR.

EE News: Required reading for up-to-date environmental educators

Where do e-educators in the know turn for the latest ideas in their field? EE News: Environmental Education in Wisconsin, of course! EE News is the state's published quarterly to keep educators informed about special events, projects and activities.

Look here for details on the Arbor Day poster or Forest Appreciation Week writing contests. Check our announcements for conferences and classes.

Special inserts focus on current topics and activities. A recent issue included a guide about the gypsy moth, a non-native species attacking trees in Wisconsin. A color poster showed pictures of the moth at different stages of its life cycle. Other inserts discussed prairies, land use, wetlands, conservation heroes and heroines, energy education, sustainable forestry, Earth Day/Arbor Day activities, global warming and climate change.

One copy of EE News is sent free to every school in Wisconsin. Individual subscriptions are $5.00 per year. To order, contact Carrie Morgan, DNR, CE/6, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707; (608) 267-5239.

Carrie Morgan edits EE News.

The Earth Day Flag – a sign of success

More than 600 Wisconsin schools and classes have flown an Earth Day Flag to proudly recognize their participation in a local Earth Day Project. Under the direction of a teacher or youth group leader, students learn about an environmental topic, then complete a project that reinforces classroom knowledge with practical experience. More than 60,000 students have participated in the Earth Day Project since the Department of Natural Resources' program began in 1995. To receive an information packet, please e-mail Jennifer Richards or call (608) 267-2463.

Connecting with educators

Wisconsin educators come in many shapes and sizes: urban preschool to rural high school teachers, scout and 4-H leaders, nature-center naturalists, tech-school instructors and college professors. All share a passion for helping students learn and smile, and a constant desire to improve their teaching skills. The Department of Natural Resources provides a spectrum of programs for educators to expand their knowledge of education and the environment. We're pleased to share our expertise!

Project Learning Tree (PLT)

PLT, first introduced in Wisconsin in 1977, provides tools to bring the outdoors into classrooms and students into the outdoors. PLT uses the forest to increase students' understanding of our complex environment; to stimulate critical and creative thinking; to develop the ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues; and to instill the commitment to act responsibly on behalf of the environment.

A complete revision of materials in 1993 and new modules for middle school and high school students keeps PLT on the cutting edge of education. The DNR forestry bureau continues to provide excellent supplementary materials on champion trees, sustainable forestry, forestry economics, gypsy moths and forest health to make PLT more relevant in Wisconsin.

Each year more than 1,000 Wisconsin educators attend PLT workshops and engage participants in activities they can use with their students.

Project WILD and Aquatic WILD

Teachers learning a Project WILD activity. © Al Stenstrup
Teachers learning a Project WILD activity. © Al Stenstrup

Project WILD is one of the most widely used conservation and environmental education programs among K-12 educators.

Since introduced in Wisconsin in 1985, more than 30,000 educators have completed a workshop.

Project WILD's 160 activities teach children about the interrelationships among people, wildlife and the environment. They emphasize how to think, not what to think.

Table of Contents
Learning to grow

Environmental education centers

Computer tools for educators

Monitoring the environment

Adult and community education

Education and economics

Outreach programs for teachers


Wisconsin Project WILD has tied reading into a series called "WILD in the City." The program consists of four-page booklets that focus on different types of urban wildlife from Canada geese to bats and ants.

Project WILD emphasizes using school grounds for environmental learning, encouraging students, teachers and area residents to plan, construct and use the area surrounding the school for natural areas, ponds, butterfly gardens and other nature projects.

To discover more about PLT and Project WILD call (608) 264-6282 or e-mail Al Stenstrup.

Community partnerships

Many partnerships protect natural resources and provide students with active learning that is meaningful and beneficial to the community. Some examples include:

Milwaukee teachers play the "Green Square" game: They invent a new product while minimizing the amount of waste created in "manufacturing" the new product. © Al Stenstrup
Milwaukee teachers play the 'Green Square' game: They invent a new product while minimizing the amount of waste created in 'manufacturing' the product. © Al Stenstrup

Wisconsin Lake Schooner – The year 2000 will launch the floating classroom, the Wisconsin Lake Schooner. Under construction since 1994, the 137-foot schooner will have a fully equipped, modern scientific laboratory and classroom. "Students aboard the schooner will be more than mere passengers," said William Nimke, the vessel's education director. "They will participate in ship operations and research Lake Michigan water quality issues." The Department of Natural Resources has been a proud partner and supporter of the schooner program since its beginning.

Milwaukee Urban Systemic Initiative – In partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools, the department has developed education materials to infuse environmental topics into several science units. Workshops were conducted for teachers throughout the district, with on-going follow-up for the educators.

All teachers of a grade level will use the new teaching units and all students in that grade will be involved in this special set of activities.

Wisconsin Forests Forever – That's the title of a new CD that will be available to Wisconsin educators in the summer of 2000. The CD will highlight the role forests play in our society, types of Wisconsin forests, and teaching activities. The Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Forest Resources Education Alliance in Rhinelander are developing the materials.

Asthma and air quality – The Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, the Wisconsin Health Education Center, Milwaukee South Division High School and the DNR recently completed an intensive study of asthma and air quality. Students at South Division High developed and completed an asthma survey. Results showed what efforts were needed to increase awareness of asthma and its relationship to indoor and outdoor air quality. Experts from the Wisconsin Health Education Center and the DNR conducted teacher training on the issue.

Gypsy moth materials – Working through UW-River Falls, selected agriculture teachers developed teaching activities on the history of the gypsy moth, started community monitoring, and determined what action, if any, should be taken to control moth populations. Other projects completed with the agriculture teachers included materials on watersheds, sustainable forestry and mercury. The departments of Natural Resources and Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Association of Vocational Agriculture Instructors have been active partners in the programs.

Al Stenstrup is a DNR education outreach specialist.

Education for the
new century
DNR educators continually search for ways to improve the quality of the programs the department offers. The following are some of the education reform trends that guide our program development:

State standards – In 1998, Wisconsin established Model Academic Standards to define what students should know and perform at different grades. In the past, students were compared to their peers. Now they will be measured against the new standards, which emphasize the process of learning, not just knowledge of facts.

Problem solving and critical thinking – Environmental issues provide opportunities for students to propose and implement solutions. DNR environmental education programs do not advocate a particular solution, but rather encourage students to investigate issues from all sides, make their own informed decisions, and take action to implement solutions.

Interdisciplinary teaching – Environmental issues are by nature multifaceted; they provide rich opportunities for teaching across the curriculum. DNR programs encourage a crossing disciplines to enrich learning experiences.

Community learning – Using the community to explore real issues promotes learning for students and residents alike. Beginning learners forge a connection, or "sense of place" with where they live. After studying their immediate surroundings, students apply the base of experience to broader issues, leading to a broader understanding of causes, connections and consequences. Programs aim to involve and empower students in community life. This is important as surveys show 50 percent of North Americans live as adults within 50 miles of their birth place.

Lifelong learning – Critical and creative thinking, decision making and communication skills are essential for active and meaningful learning throughout life. Rapid change in society will require that all people, young and old, continue to learn. We're educating for a lifetime.

To order printed copies of "Learning to grow" send an email message to Carrie Morgan with your name, address and number of copies desired.