Great Lakes Earth Partnership Extends Schoolyards to the Lakes


A new regional EPS initiative has begun in the Lake Superior, Green Bay and Milwaukee River basins, funded by Wisconsin Sea Grant. A diverse group of educators and community partners launched the Great Lakes Earth Partnership in 2010 with 5 days in the Milwaukee basin coordinated by Urban Ecology Center (UEC). UEC is a neighborhood-based, environmental education center with “outdoor laboratories” in two urban parks, including 15 acres of wooded land and riparian habitat on the east bank of the Milwaukee River, and has helped train more than 150 Earth Partnership teachers. 5 additional days on Lake Superior were coordinated by the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center (NGLVC), a cooperative of the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UW-Extension, National Park Service and local groups. NGLVC has helped to train Earth Partnership teachers from six school districts. “Northern Wisconsin parents and teachers want their students connected to the lake as their place and to understand how the land and water interact,” says Spring Rosales, parent and Washburn District Ranger, Chequamegon National Forest.

In Phase I, Lead teams from all 3 basins canoed the Milwaukee River, mucked for macro-invertibrates, visited green and conventional sewerage and water treatment options, farms, living roofs, mapped schoolyards, visited and designed rain gardens, tested water, participated in a beach clean-up, kayaked two of Lake Superior’s String of Pearls estuaries, boated through the Kakagon Wild Rice Sloughs, hosted by the Bad River Tribe, visited fish hatcheries and farms, tested soils at three watershed elevations, learned aspects of Ojibway language and culture and experienced a fish count on Bay City Creek. Hosts and collaborators included the Chequamegon National Forest, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bayfield, Washburn, Ashland and Milwaukee School Districts, Great Lakes Alliance, Discovery World, Riveredge Nature Center and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Teachers are implementing activities and teams meet in Green Bay in the winter to share experiences and plan three 5-day basin teacher institutes for the following summer.

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.