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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.

July 18
Stream Camp Fun

IMG_5580.JPGExploring Stream Curriculum

Our teachers Kris Stepenuck, Lisie Kitchel(pictured), Laura Herman, Laura MacFarland, Sue Reinecke, and Quita Sheehan were extrodinar!

Stream Camp was a fantastic experience for learning and meeting people. You might consider this adventure for next summer.

We had many Natural Resource Professionals, both learning and teaching, that will serve as resources for years to come. From a teachers view, there were connections for lessons from the first minutes until the last. The WAV (Water Action Volunteers) program is the most classroom friendly of the citizen science programs, in my opinion, and the extensions we learned opened it up even more.

The one that grab me was taking the invertebrates into the classroom and looking at them under a microscope to key them out to a family level! The details of these critters that show up only under more magnification was awe inspiring. The tail that turned out to be two anal hooks, the eyes that were on the “back” side and bright red, and the stories of life cycle details were crazy facts that students would lap up.

The reasons I enjoy the WAV monitoring is that you as the volunteer you get to pick what of the criteria you want to monitor and how often. This leaves it open to fit into a classroom curriculum throughout the year instead of fitting there protocol into your curriculum.

Unfortunately they made everything so very interesting, as I teacher I would be trying to get it all into my class. The Mussels were hard for me to tell apart, it was often only a subtle curve of the shell or depth of shell that was the defining point. What was amazing was how many of them were just lying in the stream bottom and I had never noticed them before. We also found midden piles, most likely from raccoons or weasels, at the boat landings and piers throughout the area. I can now make correct identification on about 5 of the 50 some clams present in Wisconsin. My odds are not good but going up from zero to five.

The last day we worked a stream with a fish shocking crew and identified brook and brown trout, sculpins, and northern pike. From this session we learned how they research the streams and the structures they are building to maintain and restore trout streams in Northern Wisconsin.

So next year pack your waders and be ready to suck in the information offered by so many field professionals in the stream water world.

Exploring Stream Curriculum


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

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 About this blog

This blog is designed to connect outdoor happenings to your curriculum