SDW Environmental Education

July 2018 Newsletter

Spring wrapped up in a whirlwind fashion and summer is also keeping us on our toes! We worked with 2nd and 3rd grade students in the spring season who were exploring pollinators and severe weather. The 3rd grade students got to see severe weather first-hand as we witnessed the Fox River flood it's banks several times. This summer we will be hosting our first full day summer camps with K-4 students and collaborating with several community partners to provide EE experiences to all ages.

Meet an EE Teacher

Many of you will recognize this month's featured teacher! Sally has been with the SDW EE program since it's creation in the 1970's. She has been a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and passion since day one.

Sally Turner

How long have you been working in the program?

I have worked with the EE program for about 40 years.

What is your favorite grade level to teach?

Each grade level brings its own uniqueness. It has been a privilege for me to share in students' excitement of a walk in the water with boots and net, their discovery of what lives in our environment, their wonder as they visit the past and see how phenomena of the Ice Age affect the present (Lapham Peak), their acute awareness of our Fox River Watershed and the connection we have with everyone and everything along it, their testing and learning about our community source of drinking water and how it is changing. The favorite level list goes on and on!

What is your favorite thing about working with the EE program?

I have two favorite things; first is the relevance our EE program has to each and every one of us students and staff alike. When I first started teaching EE in the 1970s the program's relevance was often challenged. Over time this thinking has changed. I find that students are curious and concerned about planet earth's well-being. We provide them with scenarios where they discover and learn, we try to teach them how to think not what to think. They leave us thirsting for more. Second, we have an incredible staff of individuals who are diverse in their backgrounds and possess a passion for our environment. Their enthusiasm is contagious!

If you could live in any ecosystem on the earth, which would you choose and why?

Definitely I choose the waters of Clarence Strait along Prince of Wales Island in SE Alaska. During visits for workshops there I have been awestruck with the diverse populations of whales, sea lions, sea urchins, sea stars, jellyfish, sea cucumbers, crab, torritos, salmon, halibut, etc. etc. Such wonder and color!

Celebrating Linda, Barb, and Pat's EE Retirements

We enjoyed celebrating and thanking Linda Carlson, Barb Montenero, and Pat Montenero for their many years of teaching in the SDW EE program. We hope they come back to the Fox River Sanctuary often to visit their newly planted trees!

Tips for a Greener Community

Pollinator Gardens

Summer is a great time to think about how we can create habitat for pollinators in our community. Ask any SDW 2nd grader, and they will tell you pollinators are important for so many reasons! According to the USDA, pollinators are responsible for more than one third of total food-products consumed in the US, and contribute to $20 billion in US annual agricultural production.

Due to a multitude of factors, pollinator populations are severely declining, and so creating pollinator-friendly habitats outside of our homes, schools, and businesses is more important than ever. Here are some ways you can help!

  • Pick a small patch in your yard to dedicate to a pollinator-friendly habitat.
  • Buy perennial, native, pollinator-friendly plants. These will save you time and energy every year, while also giving pollinators the nectar-source they need throughout the growing season.
  • Seeds work, too! Find a local source of perennial, native, pollinator-friendly seeds and sprinkle them in the soil in the early spring or late fall.
  • Prairie Nursery is a great resource to use when choosing the type of plants that might be best for your yard. They have a "Plant Finder" tool that helps you consider soil type, sunlight, and other variables when choosing plants.
  • Another awesome resource is Wild Ones, an organization that specializes in helping homeowners create pollinator-friendly habitats in their backyards.

We have been working hard to create pollinator-friendly habitats in the Fox River Sanctuary. With the help of the Waukesha Education Foundation, Eagle Scout Joshua Boos, and several other student and adult volunteers, we secured the funding and energy necessary to get started on this long-term project. Check out the video below to see the busy pollinators enjoying a Bergamot plant in our pollinator garden.

Who Am I?

This insect is also seen buzzing around in the video above. It loves the purple Bergamot! Here is one enjoying some nectar from a Butterfly Bush. Scroll to the bottom to find out more about this mystery pollinator!
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Wisconsin Nature Note

Freshwater Mussel Monitoring Program

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is asking for help in monitoring freshwater mussel populations in our lakes, rivers, and streams. Wisconsin is home to 52 species of freshwater mussels, and 24 of those are endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Freshwater mussels play an important role in our waterways. One freshwater mussel can filter several gallons of water per day, removing many environmental contaminants such as mercury. They are also an important food source for muskrats, otters, herons, and raccoons. Since Wisconsin has such an extensive network of lakes, rivers, and streams, the WDNR is asking for help from volunteers so that they can better understand the population of mussels across the state.

Check out this article for more information and watch the video below to learn how to participate in the freshwater mussel monitoring program.

Who's got the answers?

NPR has a new video series called "Maddie about Science". Check out this interesting video that's looking to answer the question "How do bugs survive when so many things want to eat them?"

Who Am I Answer.....

.... a Hummingbird Moth. These insects can be found throughout south-central Wisconsin. The adults resemble hummingbirds in their appearance, movement, and sometimes even sound. They use their proboscis, or tube-like tongue, to drink nectar from flowers. According to the Dodge County UW-Extension, they will feed at a variety of flowers including petunias, bee balm, butterfly bush, Joe-pye weed, phlox, honeysuckle, purple coneflower, and verbena.

Thanks to our EE teacher Sandi Nitka for the awesome pictures of this Hummingbird Moth!

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Want more info about SDW EE?

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