SDW Environmental Education

February 2020 Newsletter

Since the last newsletter was written, we completed an exuberant (some might choose the word chaotic) fall season and are nearly finished with our winter program season as well. This winter we worked with 1st grade students who visited E.B. Shurts to explore animal adaptations. They hopped like frogs through imaginary mud and identified animals based on their scat. We also worked with middle school students who were lucky enough to have wonderful snow for their snowshoeing excursions. While they visited us, they also explored ice-deterring substances and designed an experiment to determine which substance is ice's most formidable foe.

We have been using this winter pause to brew some exciting updates for upcoming seasons including a brand new 5th grade program, a collaborative mural for 917 second graders, and a new Hunger Games themed lox box challenge.

Butler Middle School 7th Graders

Words for Winter

It's Just a Tree

A collaborative poem written by participants in an SDW EE workshop


It’s just a tree until

You take a deep breath of fresh oxygen.

You gather around a bonfire with friends.

You need to wipe your bum.


It’s just a tree until

It’s turned into a table, a chair, a bench, a picture frame, a door, a playground or a home.

It’s gone and the birds who lived among it have nowhere to build their nest.

It’s fragility is recognized and its absence is felt from all ends of the earth.


It’s just a tree until

It falls and causes a traffic delay or detour.

It shades you from the burning hot sun sizzling your flesh.

It falls across your yard and you see how big it really is.


It’s just a tree until

The world needs a way to record its history.


Now write your own! Start with the prompt "it's just a tree until....." and go from there!

Fall Programming

Meet an EE Teacher

Michelle Hughes

How long have you worked with the EE program?

Since September 2018

What is your favorite grade level to teach?


So far my favorite is our 4th grade program. I love it for many reasons but the best part for me is getting to look out over the fantastic landscape from the top of the lookout tower on Lapham Peak and discovering the view with the students.

What do you enjoy most about working with the EE program?
I enjoy getting kids to think about their environment and our human impacts on it while we are outdoors seeing it in action. I also enjoy having fun with the students, whether it's showing them animals up close, playing games or doing crafts. One of the best things about EE is our team. We are like a family and everyone has been very helpful while I've been learning the ropes.

If you could live in any ecosystem anywhere on the planet, what would you choose and why?

I'd love to live in the rain forests in Costa Rica again. I really enjoyed how different it was from home, how many new animals and plants there were to discover, and most of all, the nice weather.

Who Am I?

Scroll to the bottom to find the answer....


Thanks to EE teacher Sandi Nitka for this wonderful photo!

Big picture

The Importance of Urban Trees

In a recent WI DNR article, Robert Godfrey highlighted many of the important roles that trees play not only in forests, but also in urban settings. He shared that urban trees are important for reducing rainwater runoff, absorbing carbon dioxide, filtering pollutants out of the soil, and preventing erosion. If these benefits aren't cool enough, recent research has discovered that trees can "talk" to each other! This TED video outlines some of these recent discoveries. Say thanks to your neighborhood tree next time you walk by!


Did you know - the UN recognizes March 21st and the International Day of Forests! Read more about this day of celebration here.

Winter Programming

Who's Got the Answers?

Is snow important for tree health? That is the question answered by this Boston University video. A team of researchers studied what might happen to tree health if winter snowpack decreases. The results are quite fascinating! If you want to read more about their efforts, you can do that here.

Templer's Sense of Snow

More Winter Programming

Who Am I Answer

A Garden Spider or Argiope aurantia! The females of this species can be over an inch long, with the males much smaller at about 1/4 inch. The female spiders lay eggs in egg sacks in the spring. The eggs hatch in the fall but the hatchlings live in the egg sac over the winter. To survive, they eat the yolk-like substance inside of the egg sack and sometimes they eat other hatchlings. To read more about these spiders, check out this UW-Milwaukee page.
Big picture

Looking for more info about SDW EE?

Feel free to reach out with questions, comments, or news by e-mailing enviroed@waukesha.k12.wi.us or follow us on Twitter @SdwEnvEd!


Check out our website at https://sdw.waukesha.k12.wi.us/EE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlOpnHY_E68&feature=youtu.be