Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 2/11/21

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!

Virtual Curriculum - 4K and 1st Grade

This winter we are offering virtual programming for 4K and 1st grade students. To learn more about each, check out the lesson plans and slideshows below. The programs are designed so that you can utilize some or all of the activities at your discretion.

Would you like an EE teacher to visit your classroom virtually - request a visit using this form!

1st grade lesson plan and overview presentation

4K lesson plan and overview presentation

Bird Songs - Interactive Poster

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has created a fantastic resource for learning bird songs and calls. In their interactive poster, you can click on any of the birds and listen to their song. Access the resource here.
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The Great Backyard Bird Count

From February 14-17, this event is a fun way to interact with your backyard birds! Find event details here and read below for the full description from EE in WI:

"The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes, is free, fun and helps the birds.

Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the event. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time and then report their counts using an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore reports from their own town or anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. You can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see."

The Phenology Phorum

Winter Robins

Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

Some mind-blowing info for those of you looking for the first signs of spring… You may see robins in the winter.

Why? Well, not all of them actually left.

(And I’m with you here. I thought all robins migrated south…)

Robins are more easily seen in spring/summer/fall because they are searching for their favorite foods - worms, grubs, spiders, snails, caterpillars, other insects - on our lawns. But they are actually omnivores, and roughly 60% of their diet is fruit.

Robins that migrate south keep up this balanced diet. But it’s estimated that 10-20% of robins stay put when the weather turns cold.

Come winter, there isn’t much to be found in the way of worms and other creepy crawlies that they like to eat. But there’s dried fruit to be found!

Robins actually flock together and roost in trees that have berries left behind from the summer. Think crabapples, mountain ash, juniper and even those pesky buckthorn bushes.

If you want to attract them to your feeders this winter, try putting out dried mealworms or dried fruit - the one thing they don’t go for is birdseed.

Pair this new knowledge with the picture book Snow Birds by Kirsten Hall. It’s a wonderful rhyming book that introduces birds commonly seen in the winter, what they eat and do, as well as the sounds that they make.

Planetarium Corner

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


Happy New Years Mars!

Earth, Mars and our Sun formed together in the great primordial nebula. This happened only about 4.5 billion years ago. Time recording did not start then, though, and since that time, there have been and are a lot of different methods that had been used to figure out exact time here on Earth. But, just as on Earth, a system of human timekeeping has been established on Mars. Earth’s most commonly used calendar is the Gregorian calendar, placing us in the year 2021. The Mars calendar is much newer and it began at the northern spring equinox of April 11, 1955. This date marked started Mars Year 1. February 7, 2021, marks the start of Year 36 on Mars. When will the next New Year be on Mars, you ask? See the chart below to get us to year 40. Happy Mars New Year!

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The Joy Trip Reading Project- A 2021 Book Club on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Great Outdoors

Join Mrs. Hughes in her effort to be more inclusive in her reading this year! She will be trying to read as many of the books from this list as she can get her hands on. While this book club seems to be aimed at adults, high school students may also enjoy some of these titles.

"In the hopes of leading a national dialog in particular on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion in outdoor recreation, environmental conservation and social justice [is] an online book club called The Joy Trip Reading Project.

Organized primarily through web-based platform Goodreads the JTRP aims to encourage the reading and discussion of books by authors who identify as Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color. These writers and educators have a specialty in exploring the intersection of the natural world and the cultural identities of the human beings that live within it."

Garden Corner

It might seem like a strange time to bring back the Garden Corner, but winter is actually a great time to be dreaming about your spring garden. You might not be able to see the soil right now, but you can use this time to collect ideas, read books, daydream about possibilities, and jot down plans. The Wisconsin School Garden Network's resource library is a great place to start!

Also check out this lesson plan on composting from the collection Books and Blooms. The lesson is designed around a picture book and is aligned with NGSS and Common Core standards.

Favorite Read Aloud Book: Lola Plants A Garden by Anna McQuinn

Green and Healthy Schools WI - Solar and Sustainability at Schools

"Schools across the United States and in Wisconsin are increasingly installing solar, passing 100% renewable energy resolutions, and making sustainability a priority. This topic is intended for students interested in learning about what the process is like to go solar, how and why schools are making solar and other sustainability-related investments, and what the benefits are for schools. Learn from a solar professional as well as a student activist on how you can use your voice to make a difference at your school." - Green and Healthy Schools WI
Solar and Sustainability at Schools

Wisconsin Water Week

With Wisconsin Water Week, March 8-12, 2021 you can expect

  • Inspiring content in the form of engaging presentations, panel discussions, interactive conversations with experts and more on the full range of water topics
  • Opportunities to network with fellow participants through messaging and chat functions
  • Exposure to a wide range of service providers and non-profit organizations working on water and water conservation, including the ability to meet one-on-one with representatives

Find more information and register here!

2021 Wisconsin Water Week teaser

Winter Activity Kits

The SDW EE team has created several winter activity kits that are free to reserve and use with your students. Simply fill out this reservation form and someone will be in touch with you regarding delivery. You can request kits through this form.

Grades K-3: Shelter Building Kits: collection of small natural materials such as sticks, bark, and rocks that can be used to create a shelter for a small toy figurine. Can be done inside or outside. Full instructions

Grades 2-12: Sosemanuk (Snow Snake): a team challenge based on a winter sport played by many eastern Canadian and Wisconsin indigenous peoples. The object of the game is to slide the "snake" (cross country ski, referred to as a meter stick in the instructions) further than your opponents. Full instructions

Grades 4-12: Team Challenge - Lake Michigan Waterline: This is a large group problem solving challenge. The goal is to move the “water” (jingle bell) through the “waterline” (various pieces of plastic pipe), without touching the water with the hands, fingers, or any other body parts. Full instructions


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

Science Joke of the Week

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