Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 5/13/21

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!

Spring Curriculum and Classroom Visits

We're on the move again! This spring we are offering in-class visits for 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms with activities themed around pollination and severe weather. We will provide all of the supplies and lead a 45-60 minute program in your classroom. To learn more and sign up for a program, follow these links: 2nd grade and 3rd grade. To discuss possibilities for in-class visits with other grade levels, please email ekoeppel@waukesha.k12.wi.us

WI School Garden Day - May 20, 2021

"Thursday, May 20, 2021 is Wisconsin School Garden Day! Wisconsin is a leader in garden-based education. This day brings recognition to the people and programs giving Wisconsin’s youth access to innovative, hands-on educational opportunities.

Now, more than ever, youth garden educators are displaying resilience, innovation, and creativity as schools and programs are finding ways to continue making gardens an essential part of children’s education.

You can participate in Wisconsin School Garden Day by engaging in some type of garden-based education activity or celebration on May 20, 2021 (or another day that week).

This year, you may be celebrating virtually or in person. We encourage everyone to celebrate Wisconsin School Garden Day in a way that is safe and best fits them and/or their programs. Any activity that involves kids engaging with a garden or gardening–including, but not limited to, activities around planting, observing, art, literature, STEM, weeding, and planning–can be a way to celebrate Wisconsin School Garden Day." - WI School Garden Network

Debate Plate Series

"In this six-part humanities lesson series, students discuss and reflect on the factors and considerations that influence personal food choices; consider the impacts of food choices; and debate the questions, complications, and paradoxes associated with food choices and food systems." - The Edible Schoolyard Project, Debate Plate series

Toward Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum

"This sustainable agriculture curriculum for high schoolers was developed by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) at UW-Madison. Each module is designed to be taught in as little as 5 hours of class time can be taught as a unit or independently." - WI School Garden Network

Moving in Nature

Need an excuse to get outside? You could go on a spring scavenger hunt! Create your own list to search for or use this Wisconsin Spring Scavenger Hunt from EEK (Environmental Education for Kids). Can't get outside? Check out the video below for a virtual spring scavenger hunt.
Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt

Spring Wildflowers

Written by EE teacher Rita Keber

Here are three springtime flowers you may see while hiking. Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Trilliums will be in wooded areas and Pussytoes grow in sunny open areas. All three are native and perennials to C. A native plant is one that is originally found in Wisconsin and perennial means it returns each year.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit grows in wet, shade moist wooded areas. It grows from 1 foot to 3 feet tall. The club or stalk standing in the middle is called "Jack." It sits inside a green or purple hood called the pulpit. The stalk "Jack" is protected by the hood. Pulpits can be found in older churches. It is a raised platform with a railing around it, steps leading up to it, from which a minister or priest speaks in a church.

Trilliums are another beautiful springtime flower that grows from 8-18 inches tall in moist woodland areas. The flowers have three white triangle-shaped, wavy edged petals. The flowers turn pink as they begin to fade. Seeds are spread by ants that carry the seeds back to their underground home but don't each them. This is a protected flower that should never be picked.

Pussytoes get their name from the flowers that look like a soft pussy cat's toes. The flowers are 1 inch round clusters of 3-10 white fuzzy flowers atop of the singel fuzzy stem.They grow in dry sunny areas or slightly shady open areas or around rocks. Interestingly, this plant gives off chemicals that "poison" the soil for other plants. That means other plants will not grow there and pussytoes have no other plants competing for moisture and sunshine.

Planetarium Corner

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


Mark your calendars for the total lunar eclipse on May 25/26. Because Hawaii will be the perfect place to view this special event, they are willing to live streaming this event for all to see. You can contact Dr. Preethi Krishnamoorthy (preethi524@gmail.com) if you are interested in picking up the feed live, or rebroadcasting.

Besides the lunar eclipse happening later this month, there are a ton of other topics to discuss regarding space science- whether it is flight of ingenuity or SpaceX or the passing of Michael Collins or…….... A few resources have been shared below to help foster those curious minds.

Watch NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 Mission Arrive at the International Space Station

4K Earth Views Extended Cut for Earth Day 2021

The school year is getting close to winding down, and I am sure many are ready to have this school year in the books. However, there are still plenty of space science opportunities for all types of science classrooms or households. Just take a look at the list below of a few opportunities that are available.

May 14 | Live Q&A with Astronomy Experts (Grades 6-8): After watching a recording of the ‘Our Solar System and Beyond’ planetarium show at a time that fits your schedule, join us for a Q&A livestream where astronomy experts answer questions submitted in advance by students around the country.

5/10-5/16: Astronomy Week

5/16: International Day of Light

5/26: Lunar Eclipse

Summer Opportunities for Kids

Two opportunities for students to engage in writing through UW-Madison!

Nature Writing Camp

The natural world has been an inspiration to writers since the beginning of time. Join us for a week that allows our surroundings to motivate our writing! Wherever you are, we will learn more about the flora and fauna just outside our doors and celebrate the nature of summer through writing together. Nature Writing Outside Your Door is designed for students entering grades 5–9.

Rise Up and Write

Use your voice. Change the world. Join other passionate young writers and activists to use writing to create change on the issues that matter to you. Participants will connect with empowering facilitators, meet new friends, and publish writing. Rise Up & Write is a youth advocacy writing camp for middle and high school students.

Phenology Phorum


written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

1985-ish. I was fully into the “mac and cheese” years. Some ramen too. But vegetables? No way, unless you count corn and raw carrots. Green beans were the worst. Broccoli was a close second.

And mushrooms? They always made me think dead, rotten thoughts.

Life happened, and 2008-2009 was the winter/spring of my pregnancy with our first daughter, Sierra. Suddenly, rice was not appealing, but every manner of vegetable was. Weird things. I started liking sauteed mushrooms and couldn’t get enough of broccoli.

Then 2011 rolled in, with our second daughter, Marina, born in a January snowstorm. She is our mushroom girl.

Marina loves mushrooms in any form, and is even adventurous enough to try the ones that we (cautiously) forage in our woods.

We were delighted to find morels in our very first spring in our new house, when Marina was just two years old. I sauteed them in butter and we ate them with some asparagus from my parents’ garden. She was hooked.

Now, it has become a Mother’s Day tradition for us to go out into our woods to see if we can find any. We’re lucky/unlucky to have many ash trees on our property. They make for great morel growing conditions, but we’ve lost so many to Emerald Ash Borers that the ground has become trampled with the remnants of our dead tree clearing.

I’m crossing our fingers for morels again this year. They’re a treasure just waiting to be noticed, right in our backyard.

But, if we don’t find any, we’ll curl up with The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel. The illustrations alone are a reason to pick up this book - mushrooms with eyes!!! Super informative while being entertaining as well.


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

Support for Outdoor Learning

The SDW EE program wants to support you in bringing student learning outdoors! Access our full flyer for more information, including who to contact with questions or ideas.
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Science Joke of the Week

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