Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 1/21/21

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

Moving in Nature

Winter Kids is an organization from Maine that helps teachers and adults find creative and fun ways to bring learning outdoors in the winter. They emphasize that time outdoors, no matter the season, is so important for student well-being. They offer many free resources on their website including lessons about snow volcanos, ice orbs, and snowflake studies!
How the WinterKids Winter Games Impacted Maine Schools in 2020

Green & Healthy Schools Classroom Learning Series: Tackling Trash

Supplemental resources for this video can be found here.
Tackling Trash: Defining Marine Debris and How Your Actions Matter

The Phenology Phorum

Winter Constellation: Orion

Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

Sometimes we don’t look forward to winter.

Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of activities we do and a lot of traditions we keep. But it’s hard to compare with the other three seasons in Wisconsin.

However, we do look forward to the return of the constellation Orion in the winter sky. Young children can easily find “Orion’s Belt” - a line of three brighter stars in the southern sky - and then the four stars that make his shoulders and knees.

Keep an eye out for Sirius as well - the dog star is the brightest in the sky and can be seen following Orion as he travels throughout the night.

Wondering why Orion is only visible in the winter? He’s also there during the summer, but is out during the day, so our sun blocks him out.

Many cultures have stories that help tell why the stars are in the sky. The book Star Stories by Anita Ganeri and illustrated by Andy Wilx weaves these stories from around the world with illustrations to make our imaginations come alive.

Planetarium Corner

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


Happy January 2021 or Space Science Month! On November 2nd, 2020, we celebrated 20 years of astronauts living on the International Space Station. Why not, celebrate 20 years of Science on the International Space Station with multimedia, resources, activities, and more each month? January also means new calendars featuring Human Exploration, the Commercial Crew, Science, Hubble, Chandra, Moon phases, and more. These calendars can be printed off and of course, can be used for great prizes for those special classroom activities you all do. I do have a few copies of the new 2021 NASA calendar….please reach out to me and I can send a copy.

I spy....

Can you guess what critter left behind the clues in the photo?
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EE teacher Mrs. Keber was cross-country skiing near Eagle, WI and noticed a red squirrel dashing away as she got close. She noticed his burrow and a few inches away, a large pile of shells from nuts. She also noticed tracks all around the area. What evidence of animals are you noticing outside this winter?

Plan on #WIEnviroEd in 2021

The Wisconsin DPI shares many wonderful environmental education opportunities coming up in 2021. Check out the list below to see what piques your interest, and see the full year and links listed here.
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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

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!

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.


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

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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