Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 10/8/20

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!

Virtual Learning

We may not be able to be with students outdoors this fall, but we are still connecting! Check out some of the photo highlights our past few weeks of virtual Environmental Education. We have been able to connect with students about soil, watersheds, and our live animals!

Meet the Critters!

As part of our efforts to digitize our EE programs this summer, we created a "Meet the Critters" series to help learners interact with the live animals that we have at E.B. Shurts. This video highlights our Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches!
Meet the Critters - The Cockroach Family

The Color Orange in Nature

EE Teacher Michelle Hughes loves observing colors in nature, and this week she invites you to explore the color orange!
The Color Orange in Nature


Bruce Rasmussen, a retired EE teacher who now lives in Las Vegas, recently shared a fascinating article about hummingbirds from the local Audubon group in Las Vegas. The article tells about a kind of hummingbird that lives in the Andes of Peru and survives by cooling down at night to just 3.26 Celsius. Here are some wonderful ideas that Bruce shared for bringing this topic into the classroom:

Learning ideas

  • general information about hummingbirds
  • vocabulary study with words like Torpor, Hibernate and Cloaca
  • geography lesson - a tropical rainforest that gets down to freezing at night
  • mathematics - converting 5,000 Meters to miles, and 3.26 C to degrees F.

Discussion questions

  • What are some of the things that trees do to get ready for winter?
  • What do some birds do?
  • What do flowers do?
  • What do insects do?
  • What do people in Wisconsin do to get ready for the cold weather?
  • How do people conserve energy?
  • What kinds of animals hibernate?
This is Hummingbird Heaven | United States of Animals

Planetarium Corner

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


Happy World Space Week!

October also brings Earth Science Week and Solar Week. Each of these links has a ton of resources that are readily available to you and your students. I highly encourage you to check them out. Or maybe some of your students are interested in seeing what NASA is all about. You could go on NASA’s Virtual Tours or NASA at Home site. Virtual tours include exploring the moon or the lab where Moon rocks are studied or tours of NASA laboratories and facilities. Every two weeks, NASA at Home features virtual tours related to a timely topic. Happy Exploring!

Mitchell Park Domes - Virtual Learning

The Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee has numerous virtual learning opportunities available! In the video below you can meet one of their lead educators, Mr. Pete! Check out all of their offerings on their website.
Meet Mr. Pete

Science Room Spotlight

Each week, Erica Yoss (Environmental Education and Science Leader) will spotlight a different science class in the district that is doing great work with students!


This week's science spotlight is the launch of a new environmental education unit for middle school. A group of educators from across Waukesha County came together to build a three week integrated unit that connects NGSS, Social Studies C3 Framework, and Career Readiness into an amazing set of lessons and assessments. A special thank you to Michelle Sciborski and Brianna Beadle for being on the review team!

Middle School River Quality

For those of you who are missing your middle school field experience for environmental education, we are offering an in class version! We will bring the water samples and kits to your building and students can determine the quality of the Fox River through a variety of physical and chemical tests! Interested? Connect with Emma and she can get you set up!

Garden Corner

From Garden to Table, E. B. Shurts Style

By EE Teacher Sally Turner

Back in June EE Teacher John Tompsett built three fine garden beds and they were installed by Environmental Ed. Staff on the E.B. Shurts grounds. "What shall we plant?" was the question.

Perennials, herbs, vegetable plants and seeds found their way into the rich compost. We didn't know what summer would bring for our tender plantings, some of which we had no clue of their identity. We watered, weeded and pruned. Visitors in the form of four legged diners, seed eaters and pollinators meandered into the gardens, each having a purpose dear to its heart.

Behold, there was produce to be had! Tomatoes, squash, lettuce and chives were abundant and the least likely to disappear down a woodchuck hole. A wonderful harvest for an experimental endeavor to be sure.

We share with you a sample of our bounty (Crookneck Yellow Squash, Tomatoes) along with recipes and ideas for this fall season. The crookneck squash has a firm flesh and is prepped for cooking by halving it, removing its seeds and peeling the outer skin. It is delicious diced and added to a vegetable medley when oven roasting or stove top sauteing in a hot skillet.

Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

4-6 med. green tomatoes

3/4 C. all purpose flour

3/4 C. cornmeal

2 eggs

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of sea salt

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 T. butter

Canola or olive oil

Wash and core tomatoes, slice about 1/2 in. thick. Lightly salt both sides and place on paper towels for 15 min. to draw out extra liquid. Pat dry.

Whisk eggs in one bowl. In a separate bowl combine flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and cayenne. Dredge tomatoes in flour mix, then dip in egg, then dredge again in the flour mixture.

Pour enough oil into the pan to cover and heat on med. temp. Add butter to the oil. Add tomato slices to the heated oil, browning on both sides for about 3 min. (Until golden) Remove and place on paper towel to drain excess oil.

They are best hot from the pan. Enjoy them by sprinkling with parmesan, romano or asiago cheese and dipping into marinara sauce. Honey mustard or ranch dressing make excellent dipping sauces as well.

Produce isn't just for eating. Sometimes it is fun to pretend the vegetables are family members gathered at the table! Bon Appetit!

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Drying Herbs

Drying herbs is another great way to make the most of your fall garden. Here EE teacher Mrs. Parkhurst gives a quick tutorial!

Guess the Vegetable!

What Fall Vegetable Am I?

By EE Teacher Lynn Parkhurst

I am green,

I grow on a stalk.

I am a leafy vegetable, closely related to broccoli or cauliflower.

Guess who I am yet?

My name is thought to come from being popular in Belgium.

Last clue…. I look like a mini cabbage!

Scroll down for the answer!

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I am Brussels Sprouts!

When purchased at the store or farm market, many times the fresh sprouts are cut off and sold in a bag. But Brussels Sprouts are actually grown on a tall stalk! (Look closely along the stalk in between the leaves, there are too many to count!) This vegetable prefers cooler growing weather, and is harvested starting in early Fall until a hard freeze. Include a sprout plant or two in your summer garden, and come Autumn you will be enjoying these tasty veggies!

Moving in Nature

This week we're featuring a very exciting way you can move in nature - tree climbing! Of course, tree climbing should only be done with a trusted adult in a safe location. Or, you might find a professional that helps you climb safely! In Waukesha, we have Treetop Explorers, a company that hosts recreational tree climbing experiences that allow you to climb high into the tree canopy. Check out their website or the video below to get a glimpse of what this experience is like!
7 Lessons We Can Learn From Trees

National Geographic Explorer Magazine

Did you know the National Geographic Explorer Magazine is a free resource for educators? These digital magazines are interactive and loaded with fun activities for kids.
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Project Learning Tree - Outdoor Science Games

Project Learning Tree has compiled a host of outdoor science activities for elementary and middle school students. Check them out here!

In Case You Missed It!

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.


The SDW EE team is excited to offer sit-upon kits to all SDW classrooms. A sit-upon is simply a waterproof, portable surface that offers a dry spot to sit when learning outdoors. We will deliver the materials to your school for your students to construct. The video below demonstrates the process!
Sit-Upon Demo

K-12 Resources from KEEP, LEAF, Project Learning Tree, and more!

The Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education has created lists of COVID-friendly lessons that are available through K.E.E.P (energy), LEAF (forestry), Project Learning Tree (general EE), and others. The lesson plans are sorted into categories based on grade level, learning location, and student proximity. All lessons are linked to CC and NGSS standards. If you would like to access lessons that are not available online, please reach out to Emma Koeppel at ekoeppel@waukesha.k12.wi.us to borrow a guidebook.


Green and Healthy Schools Fall Learning Series

The organization Green and Healthy Schools WI is offering a fall learning series designed for students in grades 6-12. Each week will feature a different expert speaking on a variety of topics including fermentation, flooding, energy, tree identification, and more. See below for a full list of presentation topics. Sessions are 30 minutes and alternate Tuesdays and Wednesday each week. To learn more and register, check out this link.

Science Joke of the Week