Environmental Justice Course at UW: Working with Youth to Save the Planet

Sign up for Environmental Studies 600 – “Last Child in the Park: How Kids and Birds Can Save the Planet!” It’s a 3-credit course on Wednesdays 7:30-9:30am and 2:00-5:00pm.

Instructors are Trish O’Kane (Nelson Institute) and Jack Kloppenburg (Community and Environmental Sociology). For the fifth straight semester, Trish O’Kane and Jack Kloppenburg will be cooperating with staff at Madison’s Sherman Middle School to provide a nature study program to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. A high percentage of Sherman’s ethnically diverse students live in poverty. The school is making herculean efforts to meet student needs by providing after-school programming. Our class helps the school meet those needs by pairing UW students as after-school mentors with a Sherman student.

Every Wednesday morning from 7:30-9:30am, the class meets for an introduction to basic field ornithology in the Lakeshore Preserve. No experience is necessary. Bird identification is a satisfying skill to acquire and birds are a beautiful portal to better understanding and appreciation of the biophysical world. You will learn how to identify Wisconsin’s most common birds by sight and sound, then you will teach that skill to your middle school student “co-explorer.” Later that same day, every Wednesday afternoon from 2:00-5:00pm, we meet as a class at Sherman Middle School on Madison’s Northside (free transportation provided by the university). Togerher with Sherman’s Nature Explorers Club, we walk as a group to Warner Park. We spend the afternoon exploring to learn what the park and its landscape and wild creatures have to teach us, and what we all have to teach each other. There will be do  group activities like harvesting garlic mustard, planting prairie seeds, birdwatching and fort-building, and you will be paired with a Sherman middleschooler as “co-explorers” in a nature-mentoring relationship. You will help your Sherman co-explorer develop academic and social skills while building an awareness of and appreciation for the natural resources of Warner Park. Your co-explorer will teach you what he or she already knows about their wonderful park and its furred, finned and feathered residents. For a recent press account of this work, see http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/blog/article_05e09904-6b84-11e0-b134-001cc4c002e0.html

If you wish to enroll, please contact Trish O’Kane, immediately at pokane@wisc.edu. Enrollment is limited and all potential students must fill out a questionnaire, first, since you will be a mentor.

NOTE: this course can be used to satisfy the Environmental Studies capstone requirement or it can be taken as a regular course in either the Nelson Institute or several other departments. 

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