More about Earth Partnership for Schools

The Earth Partnership Program started in 1991 as an outgrowth of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum's focus on ecological restoration as a way of establishing a positive relationship between people and the land.

We assist teachers in establishing restoration projects on school sites and provide the tools for building a curriculum that incorporates restoration into almost any subject area.

Our program includes a two-week institute in the summer and ongoing support from UW-Madison Arboretum staff to help schools with restoration planning and curriculum development.

The teaching potential of ecological restoration can involve any ecosystem indigenous to a region. The 1260-acre UW-Madison Arboretum is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of ecological restoration. The biological communities collection at the Arboretum is living, dramatic proof of the possibilities inherent in restoration.

Our motivation in Earth Partnership is to create opportunities for experiences with nature on school sites. By having students transform school landscapes into natural habitats, their studies of science, math and related subjects can show them why learning is important and that they can make a difference.

What is ecological restoration?
Why restore a native ecosystem at a school?
How the Partnership Works

What is ecological restoration?

A natural, biotic community is a complex system of living things, interacting with nonliving elements such as geology, hydrology and climate. Prior to pioneer settlement in North America, there was a rich array of ecosystems, each adapted to the conditions of its particular region. European settlement brought substantial change to the landscape. Acres of corn and wheat replaced native ecosystems. Cities occupied areas once covered by forest, prairie or savanna. Waterways were altered and many wetlands drained. Human pressures such as these have led to a decline of natural biodiversity all over the world. Ecological restoration grew out of the recognition that biological diversity is essential to the health of the planet, and thus the health of our own species. Further, participation in restoration promotes the acceptance of responsibility for an ethical relationship with the land.

Why restore a native ecosystem at a school?

In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, the noted scientist, wrote about extending the ethics governing human relations to encompass the natural world. His land ethic recognized that just as people live in communities governed by laws and ethical behavior, they are also part of a natural community with its own natural laws.

By restoring native ecosystems, we are able to engender the hope that human beings can be partners with natural ecosystems. This partnership not only restores the ecosystems but also renews the humans engaged in this healing process.

Restoring a native ecosystem on a school site provides opportunities for:

  • CHILDREN to develop knowledge and skills as they undertake an exciting, real-life project.
  • TEACHERS to use the broad context of restoring the school yard to enliven teaching and learning that can weave through the curriculum from kindergarten through twelfth grade and beyond.
  • A SCHOOL to build cohesion within the school, create opportunities for meaningful community involvement and diversify the school yard while highlighting its educational mission.

A restored school landscape provides the opportunity to engage students in:

  • scientific inquiry in a meaningful context.
  • hands-on, minds-on learning.
  • real-life, important decisions that build confidence and resiliency.
  • interdisciplinary learning in a broad context. - work among peers, classes, grades and schools.
  • community involvement through cooperative projects.

How the Partnership Works

Earth Partnership staff help teachers and students develop the restoration at their school.

  • Teachers receive on-site consultations from Earth Partnership staff.
  • A teacher in-service for each school is provided by Earth Partnership staff.
  • Teachers and students participate in scientific restoration research.
  • This research, which will provide students with inquiry-based activities, will be facilitated by Earth Partnership staff.
  • A one-day meeting during the year will gather members of all teams to share ideas, discuss projects, and experience seasonal restoration activities.
  • Ongoing enrichment classes are available to all alumni.
  • An e-mail list-serve links teachers, students, scientists and restoration experts.
  • A newsletter provides news and new curriculum ideas.