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December 01
The 2015 DuPont Challenge Competition

Here is a challenge that may be of benefit for many students and to help you encorage students to communitcate all the great things you are doing in your classrooms!

            Dupont Challenge.png

Inspiring the next generation of innovators at the forefront of scientific discovery has been a goal of The DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition for the past 29 years.  The DuPont Challenge encourages students to develop a better understanding and passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by researching and writing an informative essay offering solutions to today’s challenges regarding food, energy, protection and innovation, or a story on a science discovery.


This year’s competition has expanded to include all students in grades K-12 from across the United States, Canada and U.S. Territories., including children of DuPont employees.


The Elementary Division (grades K-5) asks teachers to help their students explore STEM topics in a classroom-based challenge. Together, the teachers and students will show their imagination and originality by writing a science story about what they discovered. Submissions are accepted from Nov. 1, 2014, to March 1, 2015.


All students in the Junior and Senior Divisions (grades 6-12) may submit a 700–1,000-word essay, from Nov. 15, 2014, to Jan. 31, 2015, addressing one of the following four categories: Together…feeding the world, building a secure energy future, protecting people and the environment, or innovation anywhere.

For more information including official rules, entry forms and award details about the Elementary Division, please visit and for the Junior and Senior Divisions, please visit

November 27
​Can You Tell A Snood From A Wattle?

 Let’s Talk Turkey About Our Favorite Bird

Posted on Saturday, November 22, 2014 by eNature

Turkey Snood.jpgTurkey strutting.jpg
It’s almost Thanksgiving and many of us are thinking about our annual feast and the turkey that’s often at the center of it.


But how much do you know about the creature that many folks think is our REAL national bird?


Turkeys are interesting birds— they’re large, colorful and hard to miss when they’re in a demonstrative mood.  Many researchers have devoted their entire career to studying them and their complex social structure.


A Bird For All Americans

As recently as a generation ago, folks rarely encountered Wild Turkeys.  Hunting pressure had eliminated them from much of their original range.  But extensive reintroduction efforts brought the turkey back from the brink and just about every state in the continental US now has populations of wild turkeys, some in the tens of thousands. 


Snoods, Wattles and Beards

So what exactly is a turkey’s snood?  Male, or tom, turkeys have a number of features that experts believe are intended to attract female turkeys (hens).  These include the familiar fleshy red wattles on its neck and throat as well as a fleshy mass over their beak known as a snood.  As turkeys are polygamous and happy to mate with as many hens as they can attract, it seems reasonable to conclude that a more spectacular wattle and snood will result in more breeding success.


A tom’s plumage follows the same principles.  Bright colors and unique features rule the day.  His feathers have areas of green, copper, bronze, red, purple, and gold iridescence.  Most males also have a beard; in reality a group of specialized feathers growing from the center of his breast.  The photo to the above clearly shows many of the tom’s irresistible (to hens at least) qualities.


Strutting Their Stuff

Males attract hens by a behavior known as “strutting”, in which they display for females by puffing out their feathers, spreading out their tails and dragging their wings.  Gobbling, drumming or booming and spitting as signs of social dominance are also techniques toms use to attract females.


Sounds a bit like high-schoolers at a Friday night football game!


Overcoming Adversity

Wildlife managers estimate that the entire population of Wild Turkeys in the United States was as low as 30,000 in the early 20th century. By the 1930s, they were almost totally extirpated from Canada and found only in remote pockets within the US.  Populations have rebounded spectacularly since programs across the country were put in place to protect and encourage the breeding of surviving wild populations.  The rebound has reached the point where hunting has been legalized in in the lower 48 states and current estimates place the entire Wild Turkey population at over 7 million.


Wild Turkey or Bald Eagle?

A rather interesting bit of American history, is in the early days of the republic, Benjamin Franklin strongly objected to the choice of the Bald Eagle as our national symbol, preferring the Wild Turkey.


Franklin thought the Bald Eagle’s habit of stealing prey caught by other birds, particularly ospreys, an inappropriate quality and wrote,  “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America”.


We tend to agree with Ben— the turkey, a uniquely North American bird, is an American original and worthy of our respect.



- See more at:

Great Read: All about turkeys by Jim Arnosky

Recorded Turkey Sounds​

November 24
Teaching multiplcation?

     Try taking the students for a walk in the woods to find items to make arrays with.                        natural_materials.jpg
This group from Discovery School in Columbus were very found of acorns, though sticks, boot prints, berries, stones, mushrooms, and many other items were tried with mixed success. Great way to blend math and the outdoors.
Make sure they write the mathmatical sentence that goes with it, as they work.

November 19
Teachers - White-tail Deer Educational trunks available statewide!

The World of the Whitetail is a new set of teaching trunks filled with activities that are targeted for students in the 6th-8th grade. Twenty-four different hands-on activities explore subjects such as biology, ecology, wildlife management, social studies, history, math, reading, and creative writing. The activities in the trunks were developed by Beth Mittermaier and John Cler, experienced educators at the middle school level, with input from DNR Wildlife Biologists.

Get your class thinking about the white-tailed deer, Wisconsin's most popular wild animal. Try out this new "Deer Talk" activity before you check out the trunks. Or, view the "Checking Out the Options" activity below, which is part of the trunk. Students can also read about Wisconsin's state wildlife animal on EEK!

Whitetails Unlimited is a national non-profit grass roots conservation organization supporting educational programs, habitat conservation, and preservation of the hunting tradition. They contributed substantial funds to create twenty sets of trunks from the original proto-type that DNR developed.

Teachers may check out the trunks thorough any one of Wisconsin's 12 Cooperative Education Service Agencies or at six DNR offices listed below the activity. Typically, teachers check out the trunks for two weeks, the first week to review the contents of the trunks and the second week to conduct the activities.

Activity: Checking Out the Options

Wisconsin Model Academic Standards:

C.8.9: Evaluate, explain, and defend their investigations
F.8.8: Investigate interdependence in populations and ecosystems

Language Arts:
C.8.1: Orally communicate information, opinions, and ideas
C.8.2: Listen to and comprehend oral communications
C.8.3: Participate effectively in discussion

Where can I get a trunk? Here's who to contact. Click on the name to send an e-mail (not all contacts have e-mail):

Cooperative Education Serivce Agencies (CESA) Contact information:

If a trunk is not available through your local CESA, contact the nearest DNR office to borrow a trunk.

DNR Offices with Deer Boxes

Whitetails Unlimited
(Sturgeon Bay), Peter Gerl (920) 743-6777

This information is from the EEK (Wisconsin DNR)  web site.

November 06
November Offers Plenty of Birds

Green-winged Teal PhotoGreen-winged Teal

The confusing fall warblers have passed—but there's still plenty of great bird watching to be done in November. Chances are, a weedy field near you is hosting throngs of beautiful sparrows; ponds are coming alive with migrating waterfowl; mudflats are like magnets for shorebirds; and raptors are passing overhead.

Weedy Fields for Sparrows
Overgrown pastures, abandoned lots, fields gone fallow—all are havens for the next big wave of migrants to arrive after warblers: sparrows. Looking for sparrows along grassy trails cut in fields can be fun because your birds will flush as you walk and hopefully land on a branch just ahead of you in clear view. Keep an eye out for White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows all over.

Mudflats and Marshes for Dabbling Ducks
Late fall is to ducks what September is to warblers—prime migration time. Dabblers are ducks that skim the surface of the water for seeds, aquatic vegetation, and invertebrates, so look for them in shallower waters. This group includes some handsome ducks: the Green-winged Teal with its iridescent green face mask, the Northern Pintail with its elegant tail plume, and the dashing Wood Duck. Females and young of these species tend to migrate earlier and move farther south, while males only move when the cold weather hits.

Bigger Lakes and Reservoirs for Diving Ducks
Divers are ducks that plunge underwater and paddle with their large feet to reach mollusks, invertebrates, fish, and submerged aquatic vegetation. Accordingly, diving ducks such as Common Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers favor deeper waters. The gales of November bring a bluebill wind out of the North, as rafts of Lesser and Greater Scaup sweep out of Canada. Hardy divers are pushed south by Old Man Winter; they migrate as their northern waters freeze over.

Need Some Help Finding Nearby Hotspots?

eBird contains a Google Maps-like tool for timely birding. Just visit ebird's Hotspot Explorer, enter your location, and you’ll find a map with pinpoints of hot birding locations. You can narrow the results by date, too, if you like. Click through the pinpoints to see up-to-date lists of what local birders are seeing at these locations right now. Here’s more on how to use Hotspot Explorer.

October 16
What a Find!


Mike Hillstrom of the WI DNR found this turtle shell while participating in the Newman Catholic Schools Fall Bio Blitz on Sept 25. There were approximately 130 students in the morning participating and 60 more students came in the afternoon.

It was a beautiful fall day, the trees just starting to turn there brilliant  colors, frogs hopping around everywhere getting prepared to enter into hibernation as the pond temperatures started to drop. The facilities at the Rudolph Environmental Center on the north edge of Wausau were great, it was fun to experience the composting toilet and see how the solar panels provide for the electricity need to run scientific equipment on site.

All in all it was a very productive day with 150 species recorded.  There were 20 tree species,  6 shrubs, 3 mosses,  5 ferns,  12 herbaceous plants,  1 sedge,  12 amphibians,  28 Insects, arachnids and bugs, 4 worms, 2 moths,1 slime mold, 13 fungi, 5 lichen, 13 birds, 11 mammals, 1 snake, 15 assorted critters from the aquatic study area. This being the first inventory of the area it was fun to find such diverse plants and animals in an area reserved for education of our youth.

The classes attending ranged from 3rd grade through 9th grade biology and had diverse interests for participating. Thank you to all who participated from the local volunteers, DNR employees, school staff LEAF staff, UWSP professor and students. With a special thanks to Steve Schmidt for all his coordination of the site, students and volunteers. Looking forward to doing this again and getting into some of the areas where we did not get data from and possibly in the spring when the ephemerals are more abundant.


Running a bio blitz

Bio Bliltz Guide

MS Lesson Plan: Why does Bio Diversity Matter?

October 08
What Makes Crows Gather in Large Roosts During Fall and Winter?

I wanted to pass on this Post from Monday, October 06, 2014 by eNature


Steve Bailey is a bit of an exception.

Whereas most people in Danville, Illinois, wish the crows now in their midst would find themselves another winter home, he welcomes the visitors with open arms. He’s a bird lover, of course, and proud to live in the unofficial Winter Crow Capital of North America—despite the noise, the mess, and the smell that comes with that distinction.

Danville is home to roughly 35,000 people. Its crows, however, number some 162,000 according to the recent Audubon Christmas Bird Count. There are so many crows in the 6- to 8-block area where they nightly roost that their weight sometimes snaps branches off trees.

And then there’s the endless supply of droppings and the incessant racket. No wonder some desperate residents have cut down healthy shade trees in order to force the birds to relocate. Others have tried scaring the birds away with plastic owls and sirens, even recordings of Barred Owl calls played throughout the night.

Still, the birds remain. The most obvious reason for their stubbornness is that Danville offers a perfect location for crows. It’s in a river valley surrounded by agricultural land in all directions. As for the crows’ communal tendencies, the birds know that there is strength in numbers. That is, roosting together helps them watch for predators and increases their chances of finding food.

Given these tendencies, it should come as no surprise that Danville’s is not the only large crow roost that takes shape in the United States from fall to spring. In Jasper County, Iowa, for example, thousands of crows settle down a little to the east of Newton. In Massachusetts, up to 20,000 descend on the center of Framingham every afternoon. Wichita, Kansas, has 100,000 crows spread among a few roosts. And in the 1940s and ‘50s, Stafford County, Kansas, hosted upwards of a million crows in winter, though that roost eventually disintegrated.

And perhaps the same fate will someday befall Danville’s crows. No doubt most of the town’s residents would welcome such a development. For bird lovers like Steve Bailey, though, Danville just wouldn’t be the same without its winter crows.

Good or bad, they’re certainly a spectacle!

September 05
Groundwater Workshops 


Attend and create a groundwater model to take home to your classroom, along with the information you need to teach this concept!

Class dates are Jan  13th Stevens Point

                        Jan   28th Mount Horeb

                        Feb  11th Mount Horeb

Applications are due November 3rd! Click below and fill a to learn more about this fantastic oppurtunity.

Groundwater class

July 25
​Is That a Flower in My Soup?
by Margaret Boyles​


The world has burst into bloom. The forsythia and daffodils have faded, but azaleas, lilacs, flowering quince, cherry and apple trees, the invasive but sweet-scented autumn olive, dandelion, lawn violets and many more have exploded with color and fragrance.

For centuries, humans have foraged or cultivated flowers and flower buds for food, drink, and medicine. Think broccoli, cauliflower, and artichoke, stuffed or stir-fried squash blossoms dill-flower spiked pickles, chamomile and jasmine tea.

But did you know that the flowers of hundreds of common wild and cultivated plants are edible? Dressing up your soups, salads, drinks, and desserts with buds and flowers will add color, diversity, and new flavor to your meals. Adventurous folks might also want to explore some of the traditional medicinal uses of common flowers.

When preparing most flowers (exceptions: squash, violets, and nasturtiums) for food or beverage, use only the petals for best flavor. Remove the sepals, as well as the pistils and stamens. In case you’ve forgotten your flower anatomy, here’s help. Please read the caveats below before you begin.

A few of my favorites

  • Nasturtium sits at the top of my list. It’s easy to grow from seed, indoors or out, and every above-ground part is edible. Its buds and delicate, voluptuous blossoms spice up a bland salad or cooked vegetable platter. Nasturtium leaves and flowers are rich in antioxidant and antiinflammatory compounds, and have a long history of medicinal use in indigenous cultures for urinary-tract, cardiovascular, and respiratory disorders. Extracts of this cabbage-family relative are currently under investigation as possible treatments for many diseases, including antibiotic-resistant infections.
  • Daylily  Harvested fresh, the plump buds and meaty flowers of this common garden plant are delicious sauteed in a little oil or butter, then seasoned with salt and pepper. Some people stuff the just-opened blossom with a favorite stuffing mix, then saute the stuffed flowers in a little oil or poach them in broth. Use only freshly harvested buds/flowers.
  • Violets I’ve already written about my love of the irrepressible wild violets that pop up all over my lawns and gardens. Give it a read, and tend your lawn violets with care!
  • Calendula A lovely and easy-to-grow annual flower, calendula petals will add color and spice to just about any cooked or fresh dish. Carefully remove the petals and toss them into salad, stir-fries, or your favorite rice dishes. 

Calendula flowers are renowned for skin care and healing. You’ll find calendula listed as an ingredient in many high-end skincare products and healing creams. 

Here’s a nice recipe for homemade calendula oil or cream: Pull the petals from enough dried or fresh calendula blossoms to give you a cup. Add petals to a cup of olive oil in a large glass jar with a lid; seal and leave in a sunny window or outside for a week or two. After straining out the petals, you can use the oil as is, or heat it in a double boiler with ¼ cup of melted beeswax to make a spreadable cream.

  • Roses The darker-colored, more aromatic the variety the more flavor it will have. Strew rose petals across a fresh salad, brew them into tea, or use the entire blossoms to decorate a cake.
  • Sunflowers Carefully separate the petals and sprinkle them into salads. For a real treat, harvest the unopened buds, remove the sepals, and steam the buds until tender. Meaty and filling, they taste like artichoke. Mmm!
  • Chamomile Dried or fresh, chamomile tea is renowned as a safe and gentle calming and sleep-promoting agent. It’s readily available in stores (buy flowers in bulk), and easy to grow in the home garden. Plus, take a gander at this review of the traditional medicinal uses of chamomile and current investigation of the herb as serious medicine.

Here’s a longer list of edible flowers. Have fun!

Some caveats

  • Never eat a flower you can’t identify with absolute certainty and know to be safe.
  • Don’t eat commercially grown flowers or flowers that came from a florist; they could have been sprayed.
  • Don’t forage wild flowers on treated lawns or along well-traveled roadways (possibility of chemical contamination).
  • Introduce a new edible flower or floral tea slowly and gradually, especially if you have a serious ragweed or other pollen allergy. On your first try, take a few deep sniffs, then only a bite or two.
  • Because flowers may contain powerful phytocompounds (which confer their healing virtues, as well as their flavors and colors), check with your healthcare professional before eating edible flowers if you’re pregnant or taking prescription drugs.​
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.

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 About this blog

This blog is designed to connect outdoor happenings to your curriculum