Learning Outdoors

Resources from Environmental Education - 2/4/21

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!

Story Edventure: Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond

Join Field Edventures for a LIVE Story Edventure featuring author, Susan Edwards Richmond as she reads aloud Bird Count. Then, head outside into your own neighborhood and see what kind of birds you can find! Register here. Check out eekwi.org blog for more info and ideas kids can become birders!

Friday, February 19th at 10 am CT

* if you haven't already, you will need to create a free account on FIELD Edventures in order to register for the event

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?

Free Soil Documentary

Great news! For teachers, educators, schools, community organizers and home schoolers…thanks to a generous grant from the Bia Echo Foundation and Triptyk, there is a free 45-minute-long Educational Version of the Kiss the Ground movie and also a free DVD with both the 85 minute long feature and the educational cut on one disk. Click here to register!

Learning Outdoors Resources

There are many ways to bring learning outdoors, even in the winter! We rounded up several resources from across the state of WI that will help you do just that!

  • Into the Outdoors is aimed at "Creating pathways to environmental awareness and outdoor lifestyles that empower our next generation to become sustainable stewards of Planet Earth."
  • WiseLEARN Resources allows you to search specifically for environmental education lesson plans created by WI educators and free to utilize.
  • And finally, EEK (Environmental Education for Kids) is a wealth of exciting and engaging outdoor activities for all ages.

Tea & Tapas: Observations Outdoors and Building Respectful Relationships

Join us for a virtual Tea Time and Tapas and be inspired to teach outside on your school site and community and build seasonal connections--whether you’re a beginner or an expert! Each month, we will explore seasonal bounty in our Tea and Tapas that you can share with your students and connect to other highlighted lessons and resources. Hear inspiring stories and practical educational examples from guest experts. Find space for discussion and networking to enhance outdoor learning places. Have a cup of tea, relax, and share. Register here.

February Theme: Coniferous Tea and Tasties

In this session, we’ll connect to white pines and other important habitat trees, as a way to think about species of special concern and habitat restoration projects. It’s easy to use something like understanding one tree, its needs and benefits, and our relationship to it as an anchor to many different inquiry pathways.

Planetarium Corner

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


Hey Fellow Educators --- Are you interested in hosting your own Mars Landing Party? I have the perfect game to play in your classroom with your students. Top it off with broadcasting the landing live on February 18th. You could maybe even add a sweet treat to the party with Mars Bars Chocolate Chip Cookies. Or maybe you want to make a little Mars ice cream instead? This lesson will help your students understand how the chemistry of ice cream is related to water on Mars. Younger audiences will enjoy this perfect picture book about Life on Mars by Jon Agee. Can anyone spot the Martian? If this story isn’t the right one for you, come out to the Retzer Nature Center to purchase this book from the Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium called Max Goes To Mars. After storytime, let’s not forget about a Mars craft. Coffee filter planets sounds like a perfect craft for those younger scholars. Or you can have each student make their own Mars Paper Mache? Lastly, your students can finish the day with a Mission to Mars Scavenger Hunt.

Environmental Education Events

There are many fantastic environmental education events coming up this year! The photo below outlines the events coming up in February, and the DPI has created a calendar of all upcoming events for the year here.
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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

The Phenology Phorum

Groundhog Day

Written by EE teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

“It’s Groundhog Day!”

If you’re a fan of the movie, that line will make you smile. (Like me)

If you’re not a fan of the movie, it’s probably an eye roll. (Like my husband)

Regardless of where you fall on the “Groundhog Day” likeability scale, groundhogs are one of the most recognizable animals in North America. We usually only think of them on February 2, but they are with us year-round, hibernating during the winter months, and pretty much just eating plants the rest of the year.

I pulled together some lesser-known groundhog facts in the graphic below - feel free to share this out to help others learn a little more about this “weather predicting” animal!

If you’re feeling bookish and want more facts about groundhogs, check out Groundhog Day by Gail Gibbons.

Need more? The blog A Dab of Glue Will Do has a great booklist of other Groundhog Day themed books. Enjoy!

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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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