Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 1/7/21

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

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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

Nature Art

Need a fun way to engage with nature this winter? Challenge yourself to create nature art! Andy Goldsworthy is an artist that creates sculptures in nature and many of his creations are featured here if you'd like inspiration.

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Community Tree Map

"A project of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry Program, the Wisconsin Community Tree Map is a compilation of tree inventories from around the state. It is part of the Wisconsin Urban Forest Assessment (WISUFA) Program, a suite of inventories that characterize and monitor our urban forest resources through time. By displaying thousands of street and park trees in locations across Wisconsin, the Tree Map allows users to see not only the trees that are growing in their community, but also the economic and environmental benefits of those trees. Through a unique partnership with LEAF, qualified teachers can receive training in the use of the Wisconsin Community Tree Map, making it possible for their students to enter their own school’s tree data into the system." - LEAF
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Hear from the Experts - WDNR Forestry Lecture Series: A Census of Wisconsin Forests

Join a WDNR forestry expert on January 14th for an hour of learning about WI forests. Registration and more information can be found here.

Lecture desrciption: "As the federal government wraps up the 2020 census of people, let’s delve into how and why the government also does a “census” of trees. You’ll get highlights of the information regarding Wisconsin trees and forests and how you can access the data. The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, through the United States Forest Service, is a powerful inventory platform that can track changes in forests over time at small (county) and large (state, national) scales. We’ll discover that Wisconsin also has several other inventory programs that make the state a leader in forest inventory and analysis."

Science @ Home Activity Packs

The California Academy of Sciences is offering a variety of science activity packs for students ages 4-11. Each pack has several days worth of activities and videos and also includes extension activities. Check back often because they publish new activity packs monthly.

MeterHero - Free Curriculum Opportunity

Scientific inquiry unit with at home data connected to local employers that's ready to go! The Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) through a partnership with local utilities we are covering the costs for a limited number of Wisconsin teachers to use MeterHero (meterhero.com/wisconsin), a 3-4 week curriculum in which students collect, analyse and act upon their own real water and energy data. Guest speakers, and entry into a state-wide competition are included. Interested teachers should email mruether@uwsp.edu for more information.

Winter Picture Books and Outdoor Activities

EE teacher Mrs. Raymond-Duvernell compiled a fantastic resource for the winter learning season! The PDF document pulls together 15 different winter-themed picture books and includes a corresponding outdoor activity idea for each book. A link to a read-aloud version of each book is also included. We can't wait to hear about the outdoor adventures you take with your students this winter!

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!

Tips for Attracting Birds

Already have a birdfeeder but having trouble attracting birds to visit? Try sprinkling some seed on the ground near the bird feeder so that they might have an easier time finding it. You can also check out these tips from the magazine Birds and Blooms.

The Phenology Phorum


Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

Hot things feel hotter the closer you get to them, right?

Not so with our hottest object, the sun. Planet Earth has an elliptical orbit around the sun, and it is closest to it at the beginning of each year. This year, perhelion - the day that we’re closest to the sun - fell on January 2.

So why is it so cold? Our seasons are determined by the tilt of the Earth. During the winter, the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. We don’t have as much direct sunlight as during the summer.

The next time the sun is out, reflect on the big ball of burning gas, shining a mere 91.5 million miles away.

Curious to know more sun facts? One of our favorite book series is written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis. They give each celestial body a distinct personality and make these narrative non-fiction books amazing! Check out Sun, One in a Billion to get your fill.

Planetarium Corner

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


Save the Date: Perseverance Landing

On February 18th, 2021, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover will touch down on Mars. You can watch it live here from 11:15 a.m. PST/ 2:15 p.m. EST. There are resources galore to prepare classrooms for this awe-inspiring feat. Please make sure to check out some of the activities listed below.

  1. Mission to Mars Student Challenge (5 week lesson plan)

  2. The Curious Life of a Mars Rover Video @ Nat Geo Live

  3. Send your Name to Mars Again

  4. Dive into the Virtual Landing Packet

  5. Mars Perseverance Photo Booth

  6. Learn More about Mars Lessons

  7. Ask NASA Mars

  8. Test Drive a MarsRover Driving Game

  9. Try Out Mars Activities for Students

  10. Design a Mars Yard

  11. Mars 2020 graphics


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

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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