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July 22
Need Small grant funds for field trips or projects ...

Take note of the grants program for teachers below. Deadline is coming up.




2014 Conservation and Education Grants Available (Deadline: September 6) 

Does your nature center, land trust, local municipality, or other non-profit have a conservation project that needs funding? Are you a teacher in need of extra funding to take your students on field trips or do an environmental project?


The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin's C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant and Teachers' Outdoor Environmental Education Grant applications are now available for small-scale natural resources projects and programs that support the responsible stewardship of Wisconsin's natural resources at the local level.


Grants ranging from $100-$1,000 are awarded annually to projects or programs in Wisconsin that benefit the public, involve management and restoration of Wisconsin's natural resources, and/or contribute to knowledge about Wisconsin's natural resources through education. Recipients are required to match the grant award on a 1:1 basis with funds or in-kind services.


Past funded projects have included citizen-based monitoring in the Bad River watershed, expanding hiking opportunities in southwest Wisconsin's savannas and prairies, garden planting by Green Bay Area Public Schools to reduce flooding and attract native species, and installing signage about wildlife at the Tamarack Preserve in Waukesha County. In 2013, our Foundation awarded more than $26,000 to 30 community partners across Wisconsin.


For more information and to apply, please visit our website at Applications must be postmarked by September 6, 2014. Questions about the program may be directed to Caitlin Williamson at (866) 246-4096, or




Caitlin Williamson
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin


The Natural Resources Foundation is a statewide non-profit organization that raises private funding for publicly owned lands and waters in Wisconsin. Our mission is to connect generations to the wonders of Wisconsin's lands, waters, and wildlife.

July 10
Insects Abound

insect eye

Yesterday while I was teaching in Adam-Friendship, the insects where a major find. Dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, ants, wasps, bees, beetles, and many other less identifiable specimens all push to be noticed. Children (and adults) are drawn to insects some in disgust and some in awe. It is hard not to look into the eye of an insect and not wonder how it views the world with so many images coming at it. 

Teaching the terminology, to identify, the concepts of life cycles, or the social behavior of ants or bees can be fascinating to many. Since they are always around us and often abound in numbers why not use them. No one has ever developed a protocol beyond basic respect of a living creature to use them for studies. So go for it. It could be a simple grasshopper collection. How many what type of habitat are the most likely to be found in? What are their life stages? How long does a life cycle take? Let the students pick and accessible population and generate questions to answer? Let them figure out how to catch or observe the principles they are looking to study? Let your students design the study with you as a mentor or coach. I think that you will be amazed and amazed at who steps up to work on this project. Enjoy the beautiful weather and take care to notice the wonderful ballet of life exploding around you.

Insect Charades.pdfInsect Charades.pdfInsect Chardes sheet.pdfInsect Chardes sheet.pdf

Twist an Insect.pdfTwist an Insect.pdftwist an insect 2.pdftwist an insect 2.pdftwist an insect 3.pdftwist an insect 3.pdf

Insectclopedia below has lesson plans for all ages and teaching types. Give one a try and let me know if you find one that is particularly useful in your classes. I used the Honey bees in a 2nd grade class with great success, some are less hands on and inquiry then others but it certainly addresses many possibilities. The High School Cockroach study facinates me and teaches lots of experimental design.


Lastly an activity I often do with students to help them understand the eye of an insect and what the world looks like  through that eye.

July 01
 Goldfinches Nest in July
thistle and goldfinch.jpg

By July, most songbirds are in the final stages of raising their young, but not the American Goldfinches.

These appealing, colorful birds are just getting started. 

Notoriously late nesters, goldfinches have been waiting for the thistles to bloom. When this happens in July, it signals the goldfinches that they can start building their nests which are made primarily of the silver fibers and down of thistle blooms. Generally, the nest is built in the fork of a horizontal tree limb, 4 to 14 feet above the ground.

The female builds a durable, neat cup of thistle and cattail fibers, so dense that it will hold water. In it she lays 4 to 6 pale blue to white eggs and then she incubates them for 12 to 14 days, until they hatch. The attentive male often feeds his mate while she sits on the nest.

By the time the eggs hatch, the thistle has gone to seed, which is perfect timing for feeding young goldfinches. The parents nourish this chicks by consuming the thistle seed themselves, and then regurgitating the partially digested, milklike cereal into the mouths of their nestlings. This is as close as birds come to mammals that feed their young milk from mammary glands.

Baby goldfinches are fully feathered and out of the nest 10 to 16 days later. Almost immediately, they join their parents at bird feeders across America. That’s when many people suddenly notice so many goldfinches as the summer progesses.

Bird nest mini-lessons    2-6th grade

building bird nest activity    upper elementary

June 17

lightning bugs jar.jpglighting bug behind.jpglightingbug.jpg


A Tale of Lust And Death
These remarkable green and yellow flashing lights have a hypnotic effect on people. Children in particular are drawn to fireflies. But the same throbbing glow that attracts youngsters often leads male fireflies to their deaths.

In warm-weather months, especially where open meadows and forests coexist, the adult male fireflies of most species set out on mating flights in the evening hours. The females, meanwhile, await their mates in the foliage, blinking seductively. The task for each male is to find an unmated female of its own species.

It’s critical that the female be unmated because in many firefly species the females change through internal chemistry into male-eaters once they successfully mate. Thereafter they use their blinks to attract meals. Some females even imitate the idiosyncratic blinking patterns of other species in an effort to attract as many unsuspecting males as possible.

It’s a fly-eat-fly world out there!

Have you seen any fireflies yet? 

  Thank you to enature for this interesting tale.

May 07
Where are you going to LEARN this summer?
Here are some things I am attending or would love to attend this summer, Any one else with a favorite if you could post in comments it would be appreciated.

Summer Biofuel Workshop at UW-Madison

Flyer Summer Biofuel Workshop.pdfFlyer Summer Biofuel Workshop.pdf

June 23-June 27 No Teacher Left Inside - Conserve School

This week of collaboration and in-depth professional development held at Conserve School, Land O' Lakes, WI features a two-day immersion workshop on Place-Based Education along with a three-day institute featuring explorations in the use of technology for professional learning and students projects, scientific inquiry, writing and art in the outdoors, and outdoor skill activities. NTLI participants will develop action plans that meet state standards and establish student learning objectives while using the environment as a context for learning and teaching.

Register by May 31st

June 23-27. Citizen-based Monitoring in the Classroom. UW-Waukesha Field Station, Waukesha.

Citizen-Based Monitoring in the Classroom

Join scientists and educators from the Department of Natural Resources for a week of citizen science.  Learn about citizen-based monitoring programs from dragonflies to bird-feeders to stream health and how you and your students can get involved.  Spend time in the field learning about monitoring programs adn identifying plants and animals.  Inside, you'll experience classroom activities and discuss how to integrate them into your program.  Teachers, as well as youth group leaders, are welcome.Location:  UW-Waukesha Field Station, Waukesha, Wis.Cost:  $50.  Two free credits plus a variety of equipment will be supplied thanks to a generous grant from the Dutton Foundation.Contact:  Carrie Morgan, WI DNR, (608)267-5239, Monday, June 23, 2014 - 8:00am to Friday, June 27, 2014 - 4:00pm​

Register soon

July 16-18. Stream Ecology Field School. Trees for Tomorrow, Eagle River.

Field Biology Course

Are you interested in learning more about Wisconsin's streams and the life within them? Then consider joining us for Stream Biology Field Course - a three-day hands-on training opportunity for adults to learn more about local stream biology. Wisconsin experts will be joining us to teach you about native and exotic aquatic plants, mussels, fish, marcoinvertebrates, and more in this field-based and fun-filled event in the Northwoods on July 16-18, 2014. The event will be held at Trees For Tomorrow, a natural resource specialty school in Eagle River.

This event is intended for adult attendance, though teens are welcome if they are attending with an adult.

July 15-19​ Earth Partnership for Schools at Madison Arboretum

ST. Croix River Basin

Earth Partnership for Schools is offering an Earth Partnership Water Stewardship Institute to involve students in native plantings that improve water quality, benefit wildlife and offer meaningful, project-based learning opportunities.

May 02
Yellow-rumped Warblers

Adult female (AudubonAdult male (Myrtle)

Yellow-rumped Warblers are impressive in the sheer numbers with which they flood the continent each fall. Shrubs and trees fill with the streaky brown-and-yellow birds and their distinctive, sharp chips. Though the color palette is subdued all winter, you owe it to yourself to seek these birds out on their spring migration or on their breeding grounds. Spring molt brings a transformation, leaving them a dazzling mix of bright yellow, charcoal gray and black, and bold white. 

Warbler lesson plan - wildlife mangement    This is a High School level lesson plan but could be adapted for MS

Remember you can now comment, so if anyone has a warbler or birding activity we would love for you to share.

May 01
May 1st

spring-peeper-istock.jpgThe First of May

Now the smallest creatures, who do not know they have names, In fields of pure sunshine open themselves and sing.

All over the marshes and in the wet meadows, Wherever there is water, the companies of peepers Who cannot count their members, gather with sweet shouting.

And the flowers of the woods who cannot see each other Appear in perfect likeness of one another Among the weak new shadows on the mossy places.

Now the smallest creatures, who know themselves by heart, With all their tender might and roundness of delight Spending their colors, their myriads and their voices Praise the moist ground and every winking leaf, And the new sun that smells of the new streams.

                                           ~Anne Porter

Poetry is a great literacy connection for the outdoors. spring-peeper-istock.jpg

April 29
Eastern Hemlock


Hemlock is being attacted by an wooly adelgid. Listen to this story of history, climate change, and insect-tree interactions.

WPR Hemlock feature report

This report is easy to listen to and a great example of a case study. 

April 26
Wisconsin Forestry Career Development Exam


Arbor Day in Wisconsin always coresponds to the FF's Career Development day in Madison. LEAF is a proud sponsor of the Forestry Exa. 

This year we had 24 teams, with 88 contestants. The tests measures skills in compass, pacing, silviculture, DBH and height measurement, Forestry Equipment identification, and Tree species identification. The trees and skills are based on how timber mangement is done in Wisconsin.

1st place team was Marshfield

2nd place team was Stanley Boyd

3rd place team was Cochrane Fountain City

4th Place team was Granton

5th Place team was Cormell

1st place individual was Lance Thomas of Granton

2nd place individual was Zachary Gilberston of Marshfield

3rd place individual was Charlotte Urban of Marshfield

4th place individual was Jeffery Milas of Stanley Boyd

5th place indivdual was Jean Fischer of Wausau East


                                                     Congratulations! to all who participated, it was a beautiful warm sunny day.

Lastly, a special thanks to Adam Wehling for administing the written test, Jordon Donnerbauer, Emma Bartz and Rick Erickson for helping in the field.

April 08
Fascinating Feathers

Get Fascinated by Feathers With New All About Bird Biology Site

Feathers are amazing: they're light, aerodynamic, beautifully patterned, colorful, waterproof, and warm. To help curious minds of all ages learn about these impressive structures, The Cornell Lab just launched an in-depth, immersive website. It's the first stage of our new All About Bird Biology project, with more to come. Try out All About Feathers, including these great elements:

video library featuring 90+ videos that bring bird biology to life

feathers 1.jpg

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 About this blog

This blog is designed to connect outdoor happenings to your curriculum