Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 2/18/21

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!

Phenology Phorum

Budding Trees

written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

We often think of trees as being dormant during the cold winter months. But like many of us who are preparing for warmer weather, trees are too.

Take a walk outside. Look closely at the tips of the tree’s branches. Have they started to set their leaf buds already?

Some tree species create buds in the late summer and fall to get a head start on next year’s growth. In addition, some flowering trees will have flower buds getting ready for their spring debut. Botanists, arborists AND YOU can use tree bark, branching patterns, and the shape and patterns of its buds to identify tree species in winter also.

This promise of the end of winter is a hopeful sign of new life to come.

Pair this knowledge with the fun book Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees by Jim Arnosky and head out on a winter adventure to peek at the trees!

Blog post from Kevin Anderson, DPI Science Consultant

"In this era of COVID-19, educators have faced immense challenges and responded with incredible resilience, and with innovative ideas to continue to support our students. A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak to some of these challenges—and some possible solutions—during a virtual event on STEM 101 for new members of Congress and their staff, hosted by the National Science Teaching Association and the STEM Education Coalition."

Read the full post here!

Meet the Lab Collection

The Meet the Lab collection is growing! They recently released resources for a third lab, and they are gearing up to add four more labs to the collection this year. As part of that process, they are recruiting a cohort of middle school science educators to help develop and test activities and be part of project videos. Here's a flyer about the cohort opportunity. They will be accepting applications for the next week.

Science of Vaccines Webinar

Want to better understand new COVID vaccines and previous technologies? Join a panel of UW-Madison and Mogridge Center scientists and doctors for this webinar.

Harriet Tubman, an Unsung Naturalist, Used Owl Calls as a Signal on the Underground Railroad

This fascinating article highlights the incredible knowledge of the natural world that Harriet Tubman utilized in her journey to freedom and her leadership on the Underground Railroad.


"At the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Church Creek, Maryland, Ranger Angela Crenshaw calls Tubman “the ultimate outdoors woman.” She even used bird calls to help guide her charges, eventually helping some 70 people, including her parents and four brothers, escape slavery.

"We know that she used the call of an owl to alert refugees and her freedom seekers that it was OK, or not OK, to come out of hiding and continue their journey,” Crenshaw says. “It would have been the Barred Owl, or as it is sometimes called, a 'hoot-owl.' 'They make a sound that some people think sounds like ‘who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?’ ”

That nugget comes to Crenshaw from the park’s historian, Kate Clifford Larson, author of the Tubman biography Bound for the Promised Land. “If you used the sound of an owl, it would blend in with the normal sounds you would hear at night. It wouldn’t create any suspicion,” Crenshaw says.

Free Webinar on Inquiry Practices

An offering from the Cornell Lab K-12 Education Program: "Taking the plunge to bring inquiry investigations into your teaching can be intimidating. How do you help kids ask scientific questions, and facilitate several student investigations at once? Who better to learn from than teachers who have done it before? We've brought together a panel of K-12 teachers who have successfully inspired student-driven investigations. They’ll share the benefits of inquiry-based teaching and strategies they’ve used to overcome challenges and be ready to answer your questions about the process. Check out our website to learn more about our panelists, and register to join us Tuesday, February 23, 2021, @ 6:00pm ET or Thursday, February 25, 2021, @ 8:00pm ET."

Planetarium Corner

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


Lightning on other Planets, Really?

This Saturday at 1pm, UWM CoffeeShop Astrophysics group will be livestreaming their first virtual CoffeeShop talk of the spring semester! This talk is titled "The Science of Lightning" and will go into how lightning forms and why, as well as the many different forms of lightning (blue jets, elves, sprites - those are actual names), and lightning on other planets.

The talk will be pre-recorded and livestreamed on their YouTube channel. This particular talk will also be split into a number of shorter "episodes" which will be released over the next week (the first episode being Saturday).

YouTube channel

Utility Resource Guide for Students

Access the guide here!
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Story Edventure - Live on Friday 2/19!

Reserve a free ticket for your whole class here!

(You may have to create a free account on Field Edventures first)

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Wisconsin Water Week

With Wisconsin Water Week, March 8-12, 2021 you can expect

  • Inspiring content in the form of engaging presentations, panel discussions, interactive conversations with experts and more on the full range of water topics
  • Opportunities to network with fellow participants through messaging and chat functions
  • Exposure to a wide range of service providers and non-profit organizations working on water and water conservation, including the ability to meet one-on-one with representatives

Find more information and register here!

2021 Wisconsin Water Week teaser

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


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

Science Joke of the Week

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