Education

From the Educators: Vera Court Creates a Field Guide

Vera kiddos are ready for a bug safari! MAS Photo

Vera kiddos are ready for a bug safari! MAS Photo

The elementary school kids at Vera Court Neighborhood Center are excited about a brand-new project they’re working on- their very own Field Guide! This semester they’re building their literacy and art skills by creating pages for their field guide. Each week the kids head off to a new park with a MAS educator and focus on exploring different subjects like birds, mammals, plants, and macroinvertibrates. They keep a careful list of everything they encounter, and the following week each student selects one organism to enter into their field guide.

Insect week was particularly exciting: the kids love bug safaris! No log was left unturned (except for the really big ones, that is) and they found slugs and roly-polys galore. There’s just something about peering down at a tiny bug through a magnifying glass that excites all kids – and some adults who are kids-at-heart too! 

An American crow drawn by Vera Court kiddos for their field guide.

An American crow drawn by Vera Court kiddos for their field guide.

A mallard duck drawn by Vera Court kiddos for their field guide.   

A mallard duck drawn by Vera Court kiddos for their field guide.
 

Reading and writing are important skills for all children to master, and both Vera Court and Madison Audubon work hard to support them in this endeavor. Many of these kids are bilingual (something most adults can't boast!) and may not get much practice speaking English at home. This field guide helps kids hone their writing skills when they think they're just having fun hanging out with their friends in nature.

This work was made possible by you! Thank you for helping Madison Audubon Society connect with kids and nature!

Written by Carolyn Byers, Director of Education

From the Educators: Fall is in the air, and kids are outside learning

Vera kids use a field guide to identify birds seen at Governor's Island. MAS Photo

Vera kids use a field guide to identify birds seen at Governor's Island. MAS Photo

Last summer Our summer educator, Olivia Sanderfoot, reached over 300 kids with our outdoor education programming! Wow! Many of those kids met weekly with Olivia, and were able to benefit from repeat visits and lesson content that built as time progressed.

This fall we are once again partnering with Vera Court, Bayview, and Salvation Army community centers. They’re all doing awesome things, but we’re particularly excited about our lessons with Salvation Army: the older elementary school students are mentoring the younger as everyone explores local parks. We’re hoping the older kids grow and shine with the added responsibility. At the very least, they’re excited about their new roles!

Our new intern, Bryce Lackey, is off to a great start: he will be leading programming at Bayview and Salvation Army community centers, as well as helping out with in-school visits.

Our school partnerships are really taking off: MAS educators continue to meet weekly with Lincoln Elementary, where one of our favorite activities is walking to Wingra Creek to make observations about phenology- the seasonal changes in nature.

Students at Lincoln Elementary work together to build their own honeycomb. They learned a lot about hive geometry! MAS Photo

Students at Lincoln Elementary work together to build their own honeycomb. They learned a lot about hive geometry! MAS Photo

We are also visiting Muir Elementary, where we explore outside with their 2nd grade students.  On my first day with the kids, they came back inside from lunchtime recess yelling “we saw a hawk eating a bunny and it’s outside NOW!” They were so excited to share their sighting with me, and to learn more about predator-prey dynamics.

This work was made possible by you! Thank you for helping Madison Audubon Society connect kids with nature!

From the Educators: We're beginning to think thoughts of Spring

The weather is beginning to warm, little feet are getting muddy, and we’re gearing up for
spring migration and end-of-school-year field trips.

Face to face with Wilson, the MAS stuffed Great Gray Owl (Vera Court)

Face to face with Wilson, the MAS stuffed Great Gray Owl (Vera Court)

This Spring Madison Audubon is providing after school programming at three different community centers: Vera Court, Bayview and Salvation Army. Through these programs we helped underserved city kids learn about themselves through nature exploration. Highlights of these lessons include dissecting owl pellets with Vera Court, scavenger hunts and science-art projects with Salvation Army, and neighborhood birding walks with Bayview. We have about four more weeks of lessons with these kiddos before summer programming begins.

Education intern, Abe, shares a snapping turtle shell with students (Bayview)

Education intern, Abe, shares a snapping turtle shell with students (Bayview)

Our Education Interns, Abe Lenoch (teaching at Bayview) and Olivia Sanderfoot
(teaching at Vera Court), are winning kids over with fun, engaging STEM lessons and cool animal facts. They are greeted for each lesson with huge smiles and stories about the birds, bugs, and wildlife that kids have seen since their last visit. We love watching Abe and Olivia grow as educators! They both have an undeniable talent for connecting with kids and making learning fun.

Lincoln Elementary students have been growing by leaps and bounds! They walked to Wingra Creek again, beating their old travel time by a whopping 20 minutes. They then compared their phenology findings from this trip to the last one taken in early December. These students have also been learning about the effects climate change will have on birds
and other Wisconsin Wildlife. Last week they completed our Carbon Cycle and
Greenhouse Effect lessons: big ideas for 4th graders!

Education intern, Olivia, helps a student ID mammal bones found in an owl pellet (Vera Court)

Education intern, Olivia, helps a student ID mammal bones found in an owl pellet (Vera Court)

In April and May we are looking forward to taking several different school groups out
on field trips to local natural areas. Transportation costs are one of the biggest hurdles for
teachers taking kids on field trips. Because of you, we are able to provide free bussing to
kids who really deserve it. We will focus primarily on middle and high school groups from
underserved schools. These are the groups with the least opportunity to get out and
explore nature.

This work was made possible by you! Thank you for helping Madison Audubon
Society connect kids with nature!

From the Educators: Cold weather can't keep these kids inside!

Fall migration and the start of the school year are behind us, and we’re beginning to gear up
for spring migration and end-of-school-year field trips.

Students identify ducks during fall migration.

Students identify ducks during fall migration.

Last fall Madison Audubon provided after school programming at two different community centers: Vera Court, and Salvation Army. Through these programs we helped underserved city kids learn about themselves through nature exploration. We watched them build their self-confidence with each lesson; a trait that carries over into every aspect of their lives. Our after school kids explored prairies, examined old birds’ nests, called for owls in a dusky woodlot, and used our microscope to get a closer look at water critters.

We provided free field trips to local natural areas for more than 300 middle school students. These trips allowed Glacial Drumlin to bring their entire 7th grade to visit the school forest.  While there, kids identified and collected prairie seeds, which they will use to restore wildlife habitat on their school grounds.

Cold weather and snow don't slow these kids down from learning animal tracks.

Cold weather and snow don't slow these kids down from learning animal tracks.

This winter we have been visiting several schools in the city of Madison, including Muir and Wingra Elementary, and have strengthened our partnership with Lincoln Elementary. More than half of the kids at Lincoln Elementary come from low-income families, and the freeprogramming you help us to provide really goes a long way! This year we have met with Ms. Guiney’s 4th grade classroom each week for Outdoor Wednesday. The students have been observing and recording phenology around their schoolyard and at nearby Wingra creek. They have tried their hand a tracking animals, snowshoeing, and learning common winter birdcalls. In February, they being a month-long “build a bird” project: each student will create their own imaginary bird, giving it adaptations necessary for its survival in a particular habitat.

This spring we are looking forward to taking several different school groups out on field trips to local natural areas. Transportation costs are one of the biggest hurdles for teachers taking kids on field trips. Because of you, we are able to provide free bussing to kids who really deserve it. We will focus primarily on middle and high school groups from underserved schools. These are the groups with the least opportunity to get out and explore nature.

We have two new education interns this spring! Abe Lenoch will be creating a new partnership with Bayview Community Center’s elementary school kids. Olivia Sanderfoot will continue our partnership at Vera Court. Both will to provide more outstanding afterschool programming for kids. They will focus on exploring different types of natural habitats and the animals that call those places home.

Plants offer a new look and feel during the winter months.

Plants offer a new look and feel during the winter months.

This work was made possible by you! Thank you for helping Madison Audubon Society connect kids with nature!

From the Educators: Summer education programs wrap up

This year has been filled with adventure for kids and young adults in our Madison Audubon programs. Thanks to your support, we have been able to reach 2,259 youth since January – and have built long-term relationships with over 100 of them! Because of your support, local kids are spending more time exploring outside, asking questions, and making observations about nature...and they're unearthing their own special love and connection to our natural world as they explore.

Conservation Academy partcipants from Operation Fresh Start learn about water quality management.  Photo by Carolyn Byers

Conservation Academy partcipants from Operation Fresh Start learn about water quality management. Photo by Carolyn Byers

What were we up to this summer?

Operation Fresh Start Conservation Academy participants celebrate the end of their summer season with Smokey the Bear!  Photo by Carolyn Byers.

Operation Fresh Start Conservation Academy participants celebrate the end of their summer season with Smokey the Bear! Photo by Carolyn Byers.

  • Kids at Vera Court Neighborhood Center and Salvation Army Community Center adventured with insects, water critters, and tiny flowers in our Micro Explorers curriculum.

  • Through our Conservation Academy program, Operation Fresh Start crews learned about career paths in habitat restoration, stream ecology, ornithology, wildlife biology, urban forestry, and water resource management. We celebrated their summer of learning with a retreat at the Mackenzie Environmental Education Center!

  • A partnership with MSCR (Madison School & Community Recreation) allowed us to provide a week of Wildlife Immersion lessons for summer camp kids. Birds, binoculars, scat, tracks, and art projects were our highlights!

This fall, we plan to continue our partnerships with local schools and community centers, and hope to share the wonder of wildlife with as many kids as possible!

- Carolyn Byers
Director of Education