KEEP Energy Educator of the Year Awards

Sponsored by the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP)keeplogo

The Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) recognizes educators who take the extra step to improve energy literacy in Wisconsin through the Energy Educator of the Year Award for formal and non-formal educators. The award includes $1,000 plus $250 worth of resources. Nominating someone or yourself involves completing an entry form and submitting a one-page narrative that details the nominee’s energy education initiatives and outcomes. The entry form can be found on the KEEP website; the form and the narrative should be mailed to the KEEP office. For details visit Educator of the Year Awards.

The due date for nominations is April 5, 2013.

______________In other news, LEAF is still accepting applications for it’s Sustainable Forestry Education Program Development Specialist in Stevens Point.  Applications due March 1st.

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Digital Learning Day and Environmental Education

As Environmental Educators, we sometimes have a dichotomous relationship with technology.  On the one hand, we may want to wrench our students from their ever-present devices and get them out into nature – on the other, we recognize technology as a useful way to help students connect to and understand the outdoors in a way that is interactive (indirectly, at least) and familiar.   The balance of these protechnology and natures and cons depend somewhat on the educator.  Either way, technology is not going away, and understanding how other educators are using it is a must, whether your teaching medium is the woods or the whiteboard.

Today has been called a national “Digital Learning Day” and the Wisconsin DPI is joining in, asking educators to share their stories and start conversations about how they are using technology in their classrooms.  You can get involved in the conversation here.  It would be interesting to add an EE-bent to some of these conversations – giving thoughtful consideration, perhaps, to where we celebrate technology, as well as where we skeptically speculate about it.

Here are some highlight from the Digital Learning Day webpage that I thought could be useful for EE.

Wonderopolis – This website presents a “daily wonder” complete with photos and videos.  Students can read about the “wonder” and post comments and questions, to which they will receive an individual response!

Challenge-Based Learning – Similar to Project-Based Learning, CBL asks students to find innovative solutions to real-world problems.  The link above has some suggested challenged that are connected with the Common Core Standards

But don’t take my word for it – go check it out yourself.  Heck, even post a comment and share your ideas for how we could use (or already use) some of these in EE!

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The Latest in EE Apps

For all You Nature-Loving Techies, or Tech-Savvy Nature Buffs 

Ok, Smartphone users, if  you’re in EE and haven’t heard of these apps yet, get excited.  You may just want to read this post with device in hand.  Several folks have passed these along over the past few weeks.  If anyone has more to share, please comment!

1. What Tree is That? app from the Arbor Day Foundation takes you through an easy-to-use dichotomous key on your phone to ID almost any tree in the eastern or western US.  For iPhone.  There’s also a normal computer version for all of us “stone age” phone users.  A similar app is available for Android through Virginia Tech.

2. Common Core Standards App lets you search standards for Language Arts or Math by grade or topic.  For all of us trying to integrate EE with classroom curriculum requirements, this is super useful!  This one’s FREE!  For Android or iPhone.

3. This link has a list of field guide apps for birds, trees, wildflowers, fish, amphibians, mammals, rocks, insects, stars, and animal tracks.  I was going to picNATURE field guidesk out a couple that looked the best, but they all looked like so much fun I had to post the whole list.  You’ll have to choose your favorites!

4. NatureFind helps you locate nearby hiking trails and nature centers.  It also has listings of events at these locations.   FREE! For iPhone.

5. WildObs lets you participate in citizen science on the go.  Log and submit wildlife observations to the Wildlife Watch website.  FREE! For iphone or Android.

If you’re looking for more, the National Wildlife Federation has an excellent list on their Wildlife Promise blog.

Have fun app-ing, identifying, and educating!  Don’t forget to ditch the phone now and then for an electronics-free, wonder-filled adventure.  ;)

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Next Generation Science Standards – Give Your Feedback

As Environmental Educators, we often make connections to – or deal directly with – science topics and standards.  From now through January 29th, we have a very unique opportunity to contribute to the development of the Next Generation Science Standards – a state-led effort to develop nationally recognized, internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education.

Science teacher feeling slightly overwhelmed by the new standards. Don't worry - follow this guide to review them early!

Science teacher feeling slightly overwhelmed by the new standards. Don’t worry – follow this guide to review them early!

The effort comes in response to lagging achievement scores among US students, the need to prepare the next generation for a variety of careers and form a scientifically literate society, and the desire to regain the United States’ competitive edge in science and   innovation.  Previously, most states have based their science standards either on the National Science Education Standards from the NRC and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, bNGSS Logo 091611_0oth of which are about 15 years old.  In those 15 years, many scientific disciplines have evolved in both knowledge and technique, while schools try to play catch-up.  New, updated standards will help to fill this gap.  The process of writing new standards began in 2011, when the National Research Council (NRC) published it’s Framework AAAS Logofor K-12 Science Education, a document upon which the Next Generation Science Standards are based.  The development of the Next Generation Science Standards is a nsta_logocollaboration between the NRC, the AAAS, the National Science Teachers Association, and Achieve.  To clear up the confusion that I had initially, Achieve is a “bipartisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability to prepare all young people for postsecondary education, work, and citizenship.”  The standards have been written and reviewed in a variety of “lead states” throughout the country, with all states and the public invited to comment.

The standards may be viewed either as a PDF document available for download, or in an online format.  Standards may be viewed by as arranged by topic or by Disciplinary Core Ideas. This is the last opportunity to offer comment on the standards, which are set to be available in their final form this spring. science-classroom-poster-on-physics-lj-lambert

You can view the standards here.

If you’re having trouble interpreting the format of the standards, visit this page for help.

Finding the place to submit comments on the Next Generation Science Standards page is quite tricky, but I’ve stumbled upon it at last.  Submit your feedback by using the Next Generation Science Standards survey.

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Mentorship Program – January 2013

Seeking EE Guidance?  Looking to Impart EE Wisdom?

WAEE’s Mentorship Program could be the place to start.  This post is for current participants or those interested in connecting with a mentor or mentee. Mentorship Program Graphic 2

The WAEE Mentorship Program seeks to connect experienced Environmental Educators with those new to the field, or simply seeking advice on where to go next.  As the program has found it’s legs since it began several years ago, it has grown and adapted as it attempts to best serve those who want to participate.  Lately, I’ve been inspired to seek information on how to make the program even better.  I stumbled upon this article about mentorship.  Although it’s written for the business world, I found it relevant to almost anyone seeking to get or give advice in their field.

For current participants, I challenge you to read this article and choose one of the mentoring “ingredients” that you and your and your mentor or mentee do really well, and one you’d like to improve this year.  It’s resolution time, right?

For those interested in the program, you can sign up at the upcoming Wimoll-n-morrie-2nter Workshop, or if you can’t make it, you can send a request to and we’ll get you matched with a mentor or mentee as soon as we can!

Here are the main points from the article linked above:

Four Ingredients for Successful Mentoring Relationships

1. Clear Expectations. The initial meeting should include a discussion of goals and responsibilities, says Straus, including things such as time commitments, accountability and intellectual property.

2. Mutual Respect. Straus says mentors and mentees need to respect each other’s time, effort and qualifications.

3. Reciprocity. Straus says mentoring should be bi-directional and include strategies that make the relationship mutually rewarding.

4. Shared Values. Straus says mentors and mentees should share interests and values, which will establish a common ground.



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EE Online Resource – Inside Outside Nature

It is not always easy as an educator or parent to get your kids to interact with nature and the outdoors when it is cold and snow covered outside. Wouldn’t it be nice if ideas for nature activities both inside and outside just came straight to your email inbox? They can! Simply “Subscribe” to the daily blog, “Inside Outside Nature“. This great blog, written by Carol Malnor, Carolpresents nature activities for all ages of kids. There are contests for classrooms, giveaways, book reviews, craft ideas and much more!

It can be very difficult to write a blog that relates to teachers of  young children as well as older elementary age kids, but this blog really gives a wide perspective and lots of great ideas. Since the posts are written daily everything is also very seasonally appropriate, giving teachers and parents great ideas for what to connect their children with that is currently happening in nature.

So, check out this great online resource and be sure to subscribe so you can get great ideas sent right to your inbox!

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Get Outside in December

Continuing our theme from last month, what some know as the “gray doldrums” between fall and winter are in fact a perfect time to explore the out-of-doors!  With most of her foliage resting upon the low skirts of the forest – or sidewalk – Nature is bare…exposed to her most essential self.  And although she appears as the great minimalist at this time of year, her secrets are merely in hiding.  And this, the thrill of mystery, makes them that much more fun to discover.  Also…the hope of a morning snow-blanket brings out the inner 8-year-old in almost everyone.  Yes, think about that before you think about shoveling.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Tracking.  The first dusting of snow atop brown is a perfect time for tracking.  Prints show up excellently as the snow is not deep or crunchy yet, and delicate foot pads and toes squish snow all the way to the dark surface below.  Look for deer, fishers, raFrom exploringnature.orgccoon, coyote, squirrel, rabbit, or your local house cat!


2. Watch the Edge Ice Grow.  If you live up north, your lakes and ponds may already be frozen over.  In central and south Wisconsin, however, those crystals are just beginning to creep.  If you live near a river, you may get edge ice of changing shapes all winter – like nature’s water sculptures.  Edge ice is so cool (literally…yup, I made that joke) because not only does it form gorgeous crystal structures, but also because it foretells of that longtime human dream…to walk on water.  Get ready, ice fishermen-and-women.  Neat edge ice photos.  Yellowstone river edge ice_8566

3. Throw Rocks on the Ice.  Speaking of newly-forming ice, when was the last time you launched some rocks onto a just-frozen lake?  Too long?  The sounds are mesmerizing.  A great time to give kids permission for that old past time: throwing rocks.

4. Christmas Bird Count. This is put on every year by the National Audubon Society, and counts take place all over the US.  Click on the link to find out if there’s one happening near you.  A great way to take part in Citizen Science for folks of all ages.  Speaking of birds, have you seen any Dark-Eyed Juncos?  I hear they’re in from Canada, eh.   cbc106

5. Evergreen Appreciation & Wreaths. I just attended an excellent program all about evergreen identification, and was truly inspired.  What a perfect time of year to show your love for these consistent, colorful friends of the woods by learning their names, or simply going out to breathe in their delightful fragrances.  You don’t have to be an expert at plant ID, either.  Here is a basic guide, made for kids, but perfect for anyone, I’d say.  If you have evergreens from which you can harvest some boughs, you could even make your own holidachristmas-wreath-craft-decorate-aroma-dried-plants-fby wreath.  Make sure to harvest smaller branches from a variety of trees so trees can go on thriving throughout the winter.

6. A Star of a Different Color.  Crisp nights make for great star-gazing!  Orion and Perseus are ruling the skies these days…er, nights.  Can’t get out of town? Try “star gazing” at holiday light displays…you could even get creative and make up myths about them.

7. Outdoor Holiday Celebrations.  Start a family – or friends- tradition of doing an outdoor activity to commemorate the holiday season.  What about celebrating the solstice as well? Bonfires, hikes, sledding or fort-building and…some people say I’m crazy, but…there’s nothing like the beach in the winter!

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Mentorship Program – December Activity

The Mentorship Program accomplishes WAEE’s mission of networking by linking experienced environmental educators to those who are new in the field. There are no set criteria for being a mentor or mentee. Mentors should be available to answer questions, serve as a reference, or even provide practicum experience for their mentee while mentees can ask questions, look for potential employment, and even use their mentor as a reference. Mentorship program participants meet at a WAEE event, share contact information, determine a goal for the partnership, and share a conference meal. Mentorship activities are suggested in the WAEE monthly newsletter and here on the blog.

If you are interested in being a part of this amazing statewide networking program please contact the WAEE office at

Now on to what the participants should be working on this month!

December Activity: The snow is probably falling right now if you’re in Wisconsin! Share some of your favorite winter activities with your mentor/mentee.

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Books of the Backwoods

Good Reads for Environmental Educators this November

Between gravy, family, and bouncy-ball weather, I got the chance to do some much-needed reading this Thanksgiving.  What I found was an incredible treatise to the effects of nature on the brain.  Eva M Selhub, M.D., and Alan C. Logan, N.D., have put together a wonderful collection of knowledge, from ancient wisdom to the most recent research in neuroscience and psychology, that give even more weight to the argument that we need nature.

Their writing is direct, well-organized, and easy to read.  The collaboration between a medical doctor and a nature enthusiast is an effective partnership, and the authors draw from a variety of well-researched sources.

Some of their points are enlightening.  Some bolsters what we already seem to know from instincts or experience.  Outdoor enthusiasts might give a “duh” to certain points – for example, the chapter entitled “Green Exercise is Like Exercise Squared” is something I’ve been touting in my own personal practice for some time now – but the average American’s experience does not match up with what research (and common sense) are telling us.  I found this book full of “proof” I’ll be happy to use the next time I get into the discussion about the importance of Environmental Education around the dinner table. This book gives clear evidence that it is needed as far more than just a side dish.

Here are a few other EE-relevant titles that I haven’t had time to review, but which were passed on to me through the Wisconsin DPI Newsletter. 

Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconin’s Early Settlers by Marcia C. Carmichael.  “This part of our collective history comes alive at Old World Wisconsin’s recreated 19th century heirloom gardens. [H]istorical gardener Marcia C. Carmichael guides us through these gardens, sharing insights on why the owners of the original houses…planted and harvested what they did. She shares timeless lessons with today’s gardeners and cooks about planting trends and practices, garden tools used by early settlers, popular plant varieties, and favorite flavors of Wisconsin’s early settlers.”  -Read more at

People of the Sturgeon is a history of the lake sturgeon in Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago region, told by a fascinating collection of stories on the culture, art, and science surrounding this mysterious fish. From some of the earliest inhabitants of Wisconsin, the Menominee Indian Tribe, to the spearers who flock to frozen Lake Winnebago for the annual sturgeon spearing season, people have always been drawn to this ancient fish. This is the only population of sturgeon in the world to have been nearly extirpated, then resurrected through a community-wide effort of people who are now joined together as “People of the Sturgeon.” -Read more about this Audiobook at

Return to Wake Robin by Marnie O. Mamminga “Bookended by the close of the logging era and the 1970s shift to modern lake homes, condos, and Jet Skis, the 1920s to 1960s period covered in these essays represents the golden age of Northwoods camps and cabins – a time when retreats such as Wake Robin were the essence of simplicity…By tracing the history of one resort and cabin, she recalls a time and experience that will resonate with anyone who spent their summers Up North – or wishes they had.” -Read more at

The Great Peshtigo Fire: Stories and Science from America’s Deadiest Firestorm by Scott Knickelbine. “On the night of October 8, 1871, a whirlwind of fire swept through northeastern Wisconsin, destroying the bustling frontier town of Peshtigo. Trees, buildings, and people burst into flames. Metal melted. Sand turned into glass. People thought the end of the world had come. When the “tornado of fire” was over, 2,500 people were dead, and Peshtigo was nothing but a smoking ruin. It was the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history.” -Read more at

Beyond the Trees: Stories of Wisconsin Forests by Candice Andrews. Traverse the footsteps of Ojibwe hunters and early explorers in the remote woods of Brule River State Forest. Trek past the remains of bygone logging and CCC camps in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest…From orchids to oak savannah, beaver to brook trout, and white-tailed deer to timber wolves, discover Wisconsin’s flora and fauna. Richly illustrated with color photographs by the author’s husband, John T. Andrews, and other professional photographers, “Beyond the Trees” is also an intimate visual portrait of these stunning landscapes.

Happy Reading!

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EE Online Resource – CLEAN

I cannot imagine what it must have taken to get this resource up and running! CLEAN, the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network Pathway is a compiling of digital resources on climate change that have been reviewed by teachers, students and scientists, and then aligned with standards and benchmarks. The goal of this program is to provide a huge database of activities and resources for teachers, making climate change education possible and much easier in grades 6 – 16 (middle school through undergraduate). Incredible, right?

The activities and resources are searchable by grade level or topic area. They are not only aligned with the school system standards but also linked with Climate Literacy Principles, as well as Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning (K-12).

There is also a CLEAN Community allowing teachers to connect with other teachers that might have tried the same activity, need advice on a topic or are just looking to connect with other climate change educators. An amazing tool to help our teachers improve the education they bring to the classroom!!

Read more About Clean!

Try out the CLEAN Collection!

CLEAN is funded through grants by the National Science Foundation.



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