Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 10/15/20

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!

New DNR Snapshot Wisconsin Trail Cam Data Dashboard

While you might be familiar with their general resources, this new site lets you play with the data over time. I love having students dig into real data! Perfect for upper elementary and middle/high school students!

DNR Free Tree Program Gr 4

Check out this Arbor Day offering by the DNR! Applications accepted through March 15th. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/treeplanting/arborform.asp

Story Edventures with EEK

EEK (Environmental Education for Kids) is a fantastic resource for teachers, families, and students! One of their resources is Story Edventures where they feature a read aloud story and accompanying activities. The video below features a book called Mr McGinty's Monarchs read by author Linda Vander Heyden. After you've listened, check out this website to find even more monarch-related activities.
Mr McGinty's Monarchs - Author Read Aloud | Story Edventures

Wigloo Creation

Written by EE Teacher Sally Turner

On a cool, crisp fall morning a site was chosen behind our E.B. Shurts Building to gather with rods of willow, a few tools and a plan. We set out to build a wigloo.

A wigloo is a structure made of willow rods from shrub-like plants that can grow to heights ranging from 4 to 10 feet. Its dome shape looks much like an igloo so willow+igloo=wigloo.

First, holes were pounded into the ground in the shape of a circle for vertical placement of the largest, longest rods. Additional willow was woven in front of, behind, and out three times around these stakes to secure the structure's footprint.

"What about a door?" We studied the primitive shape we created, determined how much space was needed for an opening, arched two stakes and secured them with a twisting motion.

It was time to raise and fill the walls! Remaining stakes were arced and looped together using a bird weaving technique. Over, under, in, out. Meandering, almost whimsical. With a rod and twist to make a circle, then an addition of two or more willows to the shape a window was born. Can we have three windows? Absolutely! Each willow piece added filled in holes, strengthened the wigloo walls and added aesthetic appeal.

With windows placed and secured it was time to shape the dome. Can you see how it takes a team, a village to make this happen? At this stage staff were inside and outside the wigloo working together passing rods in, out, and around. Almost finished.

The wigloo was lifted up by the base with 12" stakes exposed, the measure of the willow that was in the ground. These stakes were crimped and woven together to allow the wigloo to rest flat on the ground. Success!

Materials and tools were critical to the execution of this project; more importantly was the vision, commitment and heart on the part of staff to make this happen. Together we look forward to the day when we again welcome students and our community to our E. B. Shurts Environmental Education Learning Center. We are excited to invite you to enjoy our newest, actual open house, our wigloo!

Wigloo Creation

Leaf Art

A few weeks back we featured the story “Leaf Man” and invited you to create your own art with fallen leaves. EE teacher Lynn Parkhurst and her family made these fantastic works of art with natural materials! You don’t even need glue or paper. You could simply create your art work outside, take a photo, and then let it blow away in the wind! We’d love to see your creations!
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Moving in Nature

Need a brain break? Join EE teacher Emma Koeppel for the Weather Dance! It isn't really a dance, just a series of movements that mimic different aspects of nature. After you've tried it with the video, get creative! Can you move like other things in nature? Trees, animals, the wind, a rock? Feel free to send your ideas back to us - you just might be featured in a future newsletter!
The Weather Dance

Planetarium Corner

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


Calling all middle school and high school educators and space enthusiasts! Be the first to try this amazing opportunity for your classroom and students! Try Slooh today FREE for a few lucky classes or one lucky grade!. Slooh offers STEM enrichment for the 2020-2021 school year utilizing its engaging online astronomy platform and weekly webinars. This year, Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium will be piloting this online platform with a few lucky classes or one grade level. Expenses will be covered through the planetarium budget this year only. Who’s going to be the lucky one to go on the first quest with their students?

Video Presentation on Slooh in the Middle School

Science Room Spotlight

Each week, Erica Yoss (Environmental Education and Science Leader) will spotlight a different science class in the district that is doing great work with students!


This week's spotlight is Kaitlyn Mizewski at Rose Glen! She and her kindergarten class went in search of living vs nonliving things. They took pictures, and then sorted them into a book creator. Kids outside, mask breaks, and purposeful use of technology all in one!

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Garden Corner

This week in the garden we harvested the last of the tomatoes and pulled out the tomato plants. Then we raked some leaves to use as mulch over the winter. By the spring, the leaves will break down and provide nutrients to the seeds we plant next year! We’re also experimenting with some late fall crops like carrots and lettuce. Many gardeners use small hoop houses or mobile greenhouses to extend the growing season. You can also cover your plants with a light cloth if temperatures are expected to dip below freezing!

In Case You Missed It!

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.


The SDW EE team is excited to offer sit-upon kits to all SDW classrooms. A sit-upon is simply a waterproof, portable surface that offers a dry spot to sit when learning outdoors. We will deliver the materials to your school for your students to construct. The video below demonstrates the process!
Sit-Upon Demo

K-12 Resources from KEEP, LEAF, Project Learning Tree, and more!

The Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education has created lists of COVID-friendly lessons that are available through K.E.E.P (energy), LEAF (forestry), Project Learning Tree (general EE), and others. The lesson plans are sorted into categories based on grade level, learning location, and student proximity. All lessons are linked to CC and NGSS standards. If you would like to access lessons that are not available online, please reach out to Emma Koeppel at ekoeppel@waukesha.k12.wi.us to borrow a guidebook.


Science Joke of the Week

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