Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 12/10/20

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!

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!
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DIY Birdseed Suet Cakes

Want to take your bird experience to the next level? Try making your own birdseed suet cakes. The recipes and directions are in the video below!
DIY Birdseet Suet Cakes

Story Edventures: Under in the Mud

EE teacher Mrs. Raymond-Duvernell recently shared her book on Story Edventures. Check out the replay to hear her read the book outloud, and to meet several of the animal friends that are included in her book!
Story Edventures: Under in the Mud

The Secret Language of Trees

Did you know trees have their own language? Yes, really! Researchers are coming to understand that trees communicate with each other in a variety of ways including through fungal networks and through pheromones released into the air. Check out the video below and this podcast to learn more.
The secret language of trees - Camille Defrenne and Suzanne Simard


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

Planetarium Corner

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


The Sky This Week- December 6th - 13th

On Monday, the last quarter Moon was continuing to wane towards an almost new moon on Sunday, which is great news for the Geminid meteor shower. It peaks Sunday night and the sky should be filled with these shooting “stars.” And they should be quite impressive, too. Read more about this meteor shower here. As the moon becomes less ablaze each night, it moves farther eastward and rises closer and closer to sunrise each night. In fact, before Saturday morning’s dawn, the moon will be only a few degrees above Venus. Venus will be glowing brightly in the southeastern sky. Mars, on the other hand, still shines very noticeably in the southeast at sunset. Looking to the South, Mars will be its highest around 8:00 pm. Other objects to examine at sunset are Jupiter and Saturn. These two gas giants are pulling closer and closer together. They are now less than 2° apart. These planets are preparing for something people haven’t seen in almost 800 years- the Great Saturn and Jupiter Conjunction. On December 21st, Jupiter and Saturn will be so close - just 0.1° - that they will be able to be viewed together at high power in a telescope. Make sure to keep looking up nightly as these planets continue to get closer and closer together. The Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium and the City of Waukesha are encouraging everyone to get out and observe this rare event between now and then. For more information about this opportunity, please check out this link. Following us on social media might be helpful, too.

The Phenology Phorum

Geminid Meteor Shower

Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

Have you ever bundled up to watch a meteor shower at night? It’s trickier in the winter just because of the temperature, but no less doable!

Shooting stars are the result of either the Earth passing through a debris field in space, causing a whole bunch of stars (the “shower” of shooting stars) or just random meteors burning up in our atmosphere, which you might happen to catch any time of the year.

The Gemind meteor showers are caused by the Earth traveling through the path of a comet. Because of this, there’s a chance to see up to 50 or more shooting stars in an hour!

Peak shooting stars will be on the night of Sunday, December 13-14, though you can see some Friday and Saturday night too. Cross your fingers for a cloudless night, and then:

  • Go out around 2 am (or later)

  • Look towards the east (where the sun rises)

  • Give your eyes time to adjust (about 20 minutes - bundle up!)

  • Hang out as long as you can! (Bring along a chair, lots of blankets, some warm drinks and snacks. Just keep your eyes to the sky.)

  • You can try to go out earlier in the night - there will be meteors, but they are more sporadic.

  • However, earlier in the night is when you might see an Earthgrazer (new word for me!) An Earthgrazer is a slow-moving meteor that leaves a long trail horizontally across the sky.

  • And of course, the darker the sky, the better. But, it’s the experience you’ll remember, right?

Pair your experience by reading “Meteor” by Patricia Polacco, and talk with kids about the difference between shooting stars that burn up in the atmosphere (meteors) and ones that hit the ground (like in the book) which are called meteorites. What would they do if they saw a shooting star and then found a meteorite on the ground?

The Ways: Stories on Culture and Language from Native Communities Around the Central Great Lakes

From their website: "The Ways is an ongoing series of stories from Native communities around the central Great Lakes. This online educational resource for 6-12 grade students features videos, interactive maps, and digital media exploring contemporary Native culture and language. The Ways supports educators in meeting the requirements of Wisconsin Act 31, seeking to expand and challenge current understanding of Native identity and communities. The Ways is a production of PBS Wisconsin Education."

Video stories featured on their website include:

2021 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest

Check out this contest!

Moving in Nature

Need a brain break? Getting outdoors is known to increase student learning and wellness, but the outdoors can also be a great place to experience specific wellness or SEL activities. The Explorer Mindset program, which is supported by the National Geographic Society, has developed a set of outdoor SEL lesson plans. Their mission reads:

"Outdoor SEL is the focused use of the outdoors to heal and nurture our capacity to manage thoughts, feelings and emotions; empowering learners and fostering positive relationships."

You can also learn more by checking out their outdoor SEL webinar.

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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