Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 12/3/20

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!

School 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!
Big picture

The Honorable Harvest

Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of the book "Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants", recently delivered the keynote address at the WI Association of Environmental Education's fall conference. One of the things she spoke about was the Honorable Harvest, which is a set of protocols (originating from Indigenous peoples) for interacting with the earth in such a way that honors all of the living beings that inhabit it. Check out the video below to learn more!
The Honorable Harvest - Robin Kimmerer

Exploring our Water Story in Google Earth

Another learning opportunity from Green and Healthy Schools WI is this program about Exploring our Water Story with Google Earth. Check out the video to learn about the interactive digital methods for studying water and watersheds. The mapping tool referenced in the video can be found here.

Exploring Our Water Story with Google Earth

City of Waukesha - December Lantern Walk

On December 9th, the City of Waukesha is sponsoring a free outdoor lantern walk for the community. You can register and find more information at this link.

2021 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest

Do you know student artists who enjoy drawing plants and animals? Check out this contest!

EE Teacher Book Pick

Enjoy this book recommendation from EE teacher Rita Keber!

The nonfiction book Weather, A First Discovery Book by Gallimard Jeunese relays information about the four seasons. Each season tells about what changes are seen and felt. The book has “magic” pages where a clear page with white reveals a new picture under the white section on the next page. My favorite part of the book is predicting what is underneath the “magic” white part before I turn the page.

Audobon Society Christmas Bird Count

Need an excuse to get outside in this cold weather? You can go out and count birds! Every year the Audobon Society holds a Christmas Bird Count to help collect data about bird populations. Anyone can participate by signing up for a local count in their community. This year the count takes place between December 14, 2020 and Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

Energy & Climate Resource Expo

Energy & Climate Resource Expo from KEEP - "Still searching for digital supplements to your energy or climate unit? Join us virtually for our Energy and Climate Resource Expo to preview one or all four of these free online learning resources. We’ll start with a brief tutorial of each platform and its benefits, then allow you time to explore, ask questions, and even register your classroom."

WIBEE: The Wisconsin Wild Bee App

A new way to interact with pollinators! Here is how UW Madison describes the new project: "WiBee (pronounced Wee-bee) is a new smartphone app developed by the Gratton Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We invite growers and interested citizen scientists to use the app during the growing season to collect high quality data on wild bee abundance and diversity on Wisconsin’s fruit and vegetable farms."

Planetarium Corner

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


Did you miss your chance to see the solar eclipse of 2017? Have you always wanted to experience a total solar eclipse? We are less than a month away from that opportunity. Just like everything else in 2020, you can experience the next total solar eclipse by live streaming the experience from Patagonia on December 14th. There are plenty of resources within the link to explore and use if you have any eager and interested scholars. It’s never too early to start planning or to excite audiences for the quickly approaching 2023 North American annular eclipse and the 2024 North American total eclipse.

The Phenology Phorum

First Ice

Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

It’s happening. Cold nights are settling in, and cold days follow close behind. Where we could get away with just a jacket a couple of weeks ago, we now need a hat and mittens to travel outside comfortably. Winter is making its way in!

Last weekend, the girls and I went hiking at Lapham Peak in the southern Kettle Moraine State Forest here in Wisconsin. No plans, just needed to get outside, so we took the trails that felt right.

We were led to a small pond on the edge of the park boundaries that was just a side trail away. Hiking paused to make room for exploring.

The pond was not what we had expected, however. It was iced over! Nothing thick enough that a strong stick couldn’t poke through, but definitely solid enough to hold smaller sticks skated across the surface. We admired the patterns created, the bubbles trapped under the surface, and the clarity with which we could see directly down to the leaves and mud encased in the ice.

Keep an eye out for these first signs of winter - frost on our windows and plants, light flurries without accumulation - and look for changes in the water you have around you. Pair your observations with the book Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kahara. Beautifully and simply illustrated, it takes the reader from being dismayed by winter to being amazed by it.


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

Big picture