Children Connect With the Outdoors Through
Great Lakes Multicultural Earth Partnership
According to staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, children are spending more time indoors in front of a screen and less time outside. This contributes to shaping children who are out of touch with the environment, science and their own communities.
To counteract this “nature deficit-disorder,” the arboretum created the Great Lakes Multicultural Earth Partnership, which Sea Grant has helped fund for the past several years along with other organizations. For the past few summers, teams of teachers have attended institutes to learn how to use the Earth Partnership curriculum and create restoration projects that can involve students and citizen volunteers.
In northwest Wisconsin, the focus was on indigenous coastal education. In southeast Wisconsin the program built partnerships with Latino communities, schools and organizations. This summer, more than 50 teachers, environmental educators, university students, faculty, natural resources professionals and citizens have been trained. Previous efforts involved more than 800 students in projects like water monitoring, installing rain gardens, beach cleanups, invasive species management and community art murals. The students also developed public outreach materials to inform citizens about ways to reduce stormwater impacts.
“Place-based education is a powerful way to connect learning with places that teachers and students interact with every day: their schools and surrounding communities,” said Kathy Kline, Sea Grant education specialist. “Wisconsin Sea Grant is proud to support projects like the Great Lakes Multicultural Earth Partnership that show teachers how to engage their students in restoration projects that support the health of our Great Lakes ecosystem.”
Sea Grant Capitalizes on Fertile Ground (Water) for Limnology Learners
Limnology is the study of lakes, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been credited as the birthplace of limnology. Limnology has also long been a source of fascination for learners of all ages. Each summer, Sea Grant capitalizes on both the interest in and the fertile ground (water) of limnology when it conducts a College for Kids course for middle-schoolers—for three weeks, with a new group of children each week. Then, there’s the popular Grandparents University, pairing children and their grandparents for a week’s “major.”
Through the programs, Sea Grant educational staff members Kathy Kline and Anne Moser have a blast. They get learners out onto Lake Mendota for water and lake-bottom sampling. In classrooms, they coordinate activities related to identifying freshwater fish and aquatic invasive species and driving remotely operated vehicles.
Program participants also have a blast. As Mary Possin, student services coordinator for the College of Engineering at UW-Madison, said, “Our participant evaluations for Grandparents University (GPU) were exceptional this year…I attribute much of this to the enthusiasm and really creative hands-on learning Kathy and Anne have brought to the program. We’re lucky to have Wisconsin Sea Grant’s involvement in GPU.”