Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 1/27/21

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!

Winter Wonder Walk

by EE teacher Sally Turner

These are photos of my musings when hiking in winter, all taken in SE Wisconsin. You may recognize clues of Lapham Peak and Scuppernong Trails in the Southern Kettle Moraine, Fox River Trails of SW Waukesha and the Ice Age Trail near Pike Lake, Northern Kettle Moraine. There are so many things to discover, and when in the moment there is much more than what meets the eye. Enjoy!

Access the full story here and then head out into the snow for your own winter wonder walk! We'd love to hear what you discover!

Livestream Birdfeeder Cam

Not seeing many feathered friends at your feeder? Wishing you could hear the tweets and share

birding with your students anyway? Try the Cornell Live Bird Cam!

Winter temperatures or migration may have your feeders less busy this time of year. Come

Spring, flocks will return and likely start enjoying the treats at your feeder. Until then, the Cornell

Ornithology Lab has many resources for you to share with your classrooms at


  1. Try the Live Bird Cam and then discuss observations: what is the weather like? What do you hear? Which birds are visiting which feeders and why? What colors do you see?
  2. Play a guessing game with common bird songs. Can your students pick any they’ve heard before?
  3. Turn on one of the videos and learn a little something new while you eat lunch in the classroom! Like.... How do woodpeckers not get brain damage?

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.

Freezing Bubbles

Bubbles are a fun summertime activity for kids of all ages, but did you know that they take on a whole new level of fun in the winter? Freezing bubbles is a great outdoor activity for families (and classrooms!) when the temperature drops below freezing. Check out this video and "how-to" for more info!

Be sure to take some photos (or even cooler, Slow Mo video!) and share it with us!

Winter Craft and Science

Augment your lessons on water and ice, states of matter, or temperature math by making this fun craft project with your kids!

Also check out more ice-based lesson ideas for K4-2, a lesson on glaciers for older elementary kiddos, and a lesson on melting ice of middle school students.

Moving in Nature

Need some more ideas for getting outside this winter? The Michigan State University Extension has some for you! Check out their article "Winter wonderland of fun" to learn more!

Soil Story Curriculum

Kiss the Ground offers a FREE downloadable Middle School Curriculum developed in partnership with Life Lab is designed to introduce young people to the magic of soil and the fascinating connection it has to the food we eat, our health, and our climate. Available in US, AUS and SPANISH editions.⁣

The Phenology Phorum

The Subnivean Zone

Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

Marina and I were hiking a few weeks ago and she spotted some funny under-the-snow ridges near our wood pile. Having seen the tunnels that the mice and voles make that appear in the grass each spring, she connected the two: these were tunnels beneath the snow that some small mammal was using to get around unseen.

The next time you’re outdoors, look for small holes that indicate an entrance to this world: the subnivean zone. In the spaces between the grass, leaves, sticks and rocks that are insulated by snow, creatures are surviving, eating and traveling.

One of the best picture books to explore this concept with kids is Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. It follows the discoveries made by a dad and child pair as they ski over the subnivean zone.

Planetarium Corner

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


Project Ham-High -Circumnavigating the World in a Balloon

By: Brian Cieslak - Project Ham High Director

Things have really been buzzing here at HDP - AeroSpace. Our plans for a spring 2021 attempt to launch a GPS radio tracker around the world in a balloon are coming together. Two satellites designed to completely circumnavigate the earth at an altitude of 40,000 feet have been procured and assembled.

To read the full article, follow this link!

Classic Outdoor Games Winter-ized

Bringing your kids outside for a lesson on finding animal tracks in the snow or something else awesomely winter-y? Take a brain break with a fun summer camp style game modified for winter! Check out the entire compilation of games here!

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

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

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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