Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 12/17/20

The SDW Environmental Education team will be sending weekly newsletters throughout the school year. Our hope is that some of the activities will support your classroom learning, inspire you to take your students outside, or spark a creative idea for you. If there are specific topics that you would like us to explore, please feel free to reach out with your ideas or suggestions! We can support you best when we know what you need!

Happy Holidays!

The SDW Environmental Education team wants to wish you a very restful and joyful holiday break!
Happy Holidays!

Wind Meditation

We all know this time of year can be both joyful AND hectic. Gift yourself and your students a minute to breathe and listen to the wind in this wonderful meditation by EE teacher Mrs. Hughes.
Wind Meditation

Winter Picture Books and Outdoor Activities

EE teacher Mrs. Raymond-Duvernell compiled a fantastic resource for the winter learning season! The PDF document pulls together 15 different winter-themed picture books and includes a corresponding outdoor activity idea for each book. A link to a read-aloud version of each book is also included. We can't wait to hear about the outdoor adventures you take with your students this winter!

Birdfeeder Opportunity!

We have a new winter project! Would you like a birdfeeder for your classroom window? Check out the flyer to learn more and to register!

The Phenology Phorum

Winter Solstice

Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

There are four times of the year when we take the time to purposefully celebrate the sun: spring equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox and winter solstice. Simply put, the solstices are when we get the most/least amount of sunlight, and the equinoxes are when we get equal amounts of sunlight/night (equinox = equal night).

Monday, December 21 is the winter solstice for 2020. In Wisconsin, we’ll get just under 9 hours of sunlight. (Compared to the summer solstice, when we have > 15 hours.)

What traditions do you have to celebrate the solstice? At our house, we eat our dinner by candlelight to remember all of the cultures around the world that had to do this in the past (and some even today), and to celebrate the gradual return of the sun over the next half a year. The book that we read every year on the winter solstice is The Longest Night by Marion Dane Bauer. It’s a beautiful read that connects the natural world with the reappearing of the sun.

You probably actually do celebrate the solstice without even knowing it: the lighting of a yule tree, yule log or yule wreaths are traditions that were co-opted by Christianity. So when you enjoy the lights on your Christmas tree, bake a yule log swiss roll, or light candles on your advent wreath, take a moment to thank the sun for the life and energy it gives us.

Winter Ecology and Forest Diversity

Here is the latest and final video in the Green & Healthy Schools WI Classroom Learning Series. Enjoy!
Winter Ecology and Forest Diversity

Planetarium Corner

Each week, Lisa Swaney (the Planetarium Director) will share some fun opportunities here!


Happy Holidays from the staff @ Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium. December 2020 has been a month filled with many exciting astronomical events- including a total solar eclipse, Geminid Meteor Shower, Penumbral Lunar Eclipse on November 30th, the aurora borealis (also called the northern lights), and the rare Saturn- Jupiter conjunction on the same day as our winter solstice. So, this week’s segment is all about exploring these events even more.

1. Secrets of the Eclipse
2. Exploratorium- Total Solar Eclipse

Beside providing a ton of astronomical knowledge or experiences about all the events happening over the month, here are few unique classroom opportunities to investigate and maybe even try over holiday break. Happy Exploring!

1. Girls STEAM Ahead. Get inspired by this recent virtual event that engaged over 150 kids in learning about binary code, decoding starlight, and women’s contributions to science, utilizing Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA resources.

2. #DIY ALERT. Build your own Moon phases calendar and calculator for 2021. With your creation, you’ll be able to predict the dates and times of full moons, new moons, and all the phases in between. See materials and easy step-by-step instructions here: http://go.nasa.gov/2GdqRTr

3. Chile peppers anyone? Have you ever wanted to explore what it would take to grow things in space? Here is a rare opportunity to participate in the Growing Beyond Earth project, where you can assist NASA scientists to test and identify food plants for growth aboard the International Space Station. We are collaborating with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida, to offer this hands-on, authentic STEM-based citizen science research project in partnership with Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA research and FFA Alumni. All materials, resources, and equipment are FREE.

4. TAKE YOUR CLASS INTO SPACE! Designed for 3rd-5th grade, this series supports aspects of the NGSS and ELA Common Core as we tackle questions such as:

  • What makes up our solar system?

  • How do astronomers make observations and plot the motions of its objects over time?

  • What parts of the solar system can I see with my own eyes from my own home?

During this science unit, students take on the role of astronomers to explore the Sun, Moon, planets, and objects in and beyond our solar system.


It may be getting colder but that doesn't mean that learning can't happen outdoors! We are still offering sit-upon kits for classrooms. These are cushioned, waterproof spots where students can take a seat during outdoor learning. If you are interested in requesting them for your classroom, email Emma Koeppel at ekoeppel@waukesha.k12.wi.us
Sit-Upon Demo

Support for Outdoor Learning

We know that this year is asking for a lot of flexibility, patience, and perseverance! As you are being asked to take learning outdoors, the SDW EE team wants to support you!

To see detailed outdoor learning ideas, check out this slideshow.

To see a flyer that outlines our support offerings this year, check out this link.

Science Joke of the Week

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