• Ecoliteracy SCHOOL: A Collaborative Program in Minnesota’s Great Outdoors — PRTP15

    If you’ve ever wanted to ponder ways to connect students with the great outdoors and environmental education, stay tuned. This will be quite a treat. Today you’re meeting Megan Barnett Schimek a HS science teacher from Pine Island, Minnesota and Jessie Barnett, a student-based faculty member in public health at the University of Minnesota Rochester. Their collaborative spirit and commitment to environmental awareness, public health, and place-based education is commendable. Today you’ll learn about the collaborative partnership between their students — it’s quite an impactful experience. Learn more in this episode about Ecoliteracy School.

    Jessie Barnett

    Megan Barnett Schimek

    Additional Links Referenced in the Episode:

    Minnesota Naturalist Program

    Roots and Shoots Environmental Club

    Big Woods big river

  • Project Based Learning Makes an Impact at Coon Valley Elementary – PRTP14

    Today we’re going back to the flooding of Coon Valley in 2018. The area endured over 12 inches of rain in just a few days, and to complicated matters, multiple dams broke in already saturated areas. The evening of August 27th was unforgettable as residents were awoken in the middle of the night to evacuate. Emergency management performed over 350 rescues and 46 roads were closed in just Vernon county. Farms, business, homes, community spaces, and roads were devastated. The students in today’s episode were all old enough to remember that night and no doubt, it left an impact. So when Erica Manix, 4th grade teacher at Coon Valley elementary, posed a “driving question” – how to prevent flooding in Coon Valley? The students were motivated and engaged because this opportunity hit home. Students conducted research, leaned on community experts, used their own experience to understand the complexity of the event and consider proactive ways to prevent future flooding. 

    PBL Resources

    1. PBL Works (pblworks.org
    2. Facebook Group to share ideas: Elementary Project Based Learning 
    3. Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper
    4. Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer 

    The Flooding of Coon Valley in 2018

    1. NOAA Weather Summary
    2. Channel 8 Special Reporting

    Place Based Education Principles

    “Place-based education is an approach that connects learners and communities to increase student engagement, boost learning outcomes, impact communities and promote understanding of the world around us.”


    To learn more about Place-Based Education, please visit the link above.

  • Taliesin Preservation: Providing Connection with the Driftless – PRTP13

    If you live in the Driftless, you’ve certainly heard of Frank Lloyd Wright and maybe even, prairie style architecture. You can see evidence of his work throughout southern Wisconsin in cities like Madison and Milwaukee, but one of the most historically significant locations is in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

    There you’ll find Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, studio, and garden sanctuary. In today’s episode you’re meeting Caroline Hamlen, director of programs for Taliesin Preservation. They provide extensive outreach to bring the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the concept of organic architecture to our local schools. It’s a great example of helping kids understand their sense of place in the Driftless.

    Find Taliesin Preservation online at:

    Website: https://www.taliesinpreservation.org/
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taliesinwi
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaliesinPreserv
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/taliesinwi/
    Youtube: https://bit.ly/3tNxLqD

  • Tower Rock Elementary: An Exemplary School for Place-Based Education — PRTP12

    Note: Most of the photos in this post capture events prior to March 2020.

    Today I’m speaking with Terri Anderson, 1st grade teacher at Tower Rock elementary school in the Sauk Prairie School District in Wisconsin. With just 220 students, Tower Rock has served a rural farming community, and Agriculture continues to be part of the fabric of this school. Today, Terri is going to share with you lots of examples of how the educators at Tower Rock Elementary school provide hands-on, interdisciplinary learning through relevant lenses like agriculture and local geography with consistent and deep connection to their community. Their work truly exemplifies what it means to provide place-based education. So, as you’re listening today, be thinking of how you might be able to apply this type of learning in your classroom.

    Because Terri will be sharing several ideas, I’m leaving extra show notes here. The information below follows the interview. Enjoy!

    Here are just some of the themes incorporated in the 1st grade: insects, maps, forests, prairies, farmland, the antarctic, classic stories, symbols, pioneers, plants, rocks, & lifestyles. These themes are incorporated across the day in the form of discovery centers, journals, story problems in math, shared reading, small group reading, and during Friday project time.

    Let’s take a deeper look at one theme, Farm or AgLand:

    Journal words build academic vocabulary and provide background knowledge for the rest of the theme. Some of the words covered are fertile soil, harvest, grain, products, combine, agriculture jobs, jobs, consumer, and producers.

    Discovery Centers provide an opportunity to work with the academic vocabulary, learn new content, and engage with the learning. Sample discovery centers are 1.) Corn bins, 2.) Write the room, 3.) Math Number Bump, 5.) Dramatic play farmer’s market, 6. Shared reading of Little Red Hen or the American Farm Bureau’s Right this Very Minute 7.) Making bread. During Friday Project time students enjoy painting pumpkins.

    Students also have the opportunity to see agriculture in action by visiting local farms, seeing a combine in action, picking and shelling corn, and comparing farm equipment.

    Additional grade levels at Tower Rock also incorporate agriculture education into their classrooms. Here is a partial list of amazing opportunities: composting, paper recycling, fall harvest, learning about goats, building a pollinator garden, building and tending to raise garden beds, tending to the indoor tower gardens, and creating chicken art projects after school.

    The staff at Tower Rock further supports Agriculture Education by hosting a school-wide event called “Ag-Day.”

    Stations are set up around the school with guest speakers who, collectively, demonstrate the diversity in agriculture. The speakers include community members, 5th graders, McFarland’s, an egg producer, a maple syrup producer, a master gardener, a forester, a barn quilts artist, a large animal vet, a horse owner, a bee keeper and honey producer, and chef to talk about Wisconsin snacks — just to name a few! The day is a solid depiction of the diversity in Wisconsin Agriculture.

    Students learned about…

    Tower Rock also keeps a few feathered and furred educators on site most of the school year. Aside from this school year, Tower Rock usually keeps chickens at school in their permanent chicken coop, complete with electricity. One grade level is in charge of supply assessment, but daily jobs are divided amongst the entire school. While their presence certainly teaches responsibility, they are often woven into learning as well. For example, 3rd grade incorporates the chickens into their habitat unit. Additionally, Penelope, the rabbit lives at school making her rounds to encourage students to work hard; she also provides a calming effect for students.

    Tower Rock also devotes space in the building dedicated to ag-themed play. The “Ag-Room” offers a flexible space dedicated to planned themes like forests with logs, sticks, trees, stumps, and an art center with leaf rubbings. Additionally, the room has housed themes like farm-to-table and career-oriented themes like large animal veterinarian care, farming, or running a floral shop. Of course, Covid has shelved these for now, but the staff has plans for further programming in this room.

    A Mural at Tower Rock

    You can learn more about Tower Rock Elementary by visiting their website at https://telm.saukprairieschools.org/.

    Contact information:

    Terri Anderson, 1st Grade Teacher

    Kelly Petrowski, Principal

  • Agriculture Education Moves Forward in Maquoketa, Iowa

    Today you’re meeting a former student of mine, Cassie Miller, and her colleague Matt Lansing from Maquoketa high school. Initially, I asked for this interview because I read a recent facebook post from Cassie’s singing the praises of their FFA alumni and the construction progress made on their new Ag learning center, but as the interview went on, I was blown-away, really, by the level of support and opportunity these two educators provide their students. Maquoketa High school is in eastern Iowa, approximately halfway between Dubuque to the north and Davenport to the South. The high school has just 620 students in 9-12th grade. The town itself is under 6k people. It’s a small, rural school, and yet…they move forward. This is a rural community with driven educators who have devoted time to create a robust agricultural education and FFA program, and their FFA Alumni not only share the same drive, but push to make it happen.

    Maquoketa Ag Learning Center Floor Plan
    Maquoketa FFA Ag Learning Center – January 2021

    Click here for an excellent news segment celebrating the development of the Ag Learning Center.

    You an also follow Maquoketa FFA on Facebook by clicking here and the Maquoketa FFA Alumni by clicking here.

    Cassie Miller: cmiller@maquoketaschools.org
    Matt Lansing: mlansing@maquoketaschools.org

    Education in the Driftless Region offers a host of opportunity. This story is a prime example of educators who work hard, provide opportunity, and inspire community support. Maquoketa, Iowa — what a proud, agricultural community!

  • Transition Plus & Culver’s = an Impactful Partnership – PRTP10

    Today you’re meeting three wonderful people who have developed opportunities for students in the Baraboo school district for over the 15 years as part of a program called Transition Plus. Just to give you geographical context, Baraboo is 15 minutes south of Wisconsin Dells. In a nutshell, the Transition Plus program provides services to students with educational disabilities and transition needs in post-secondary education, training, employment, and independent living to promote a successful transition from high school to adult life. Students are paired with businesses to learn new skills, make community connections, and earn income. One of the partnerships happens to be a Wisconsin icon in the restaurant industry. If you thought “I bet that’s Culvers,” you were right. Today you’re meeting Shelley Mordini and Kathy Tuttle. Shelley and Kathy began this journey 15 years ago. Shelley continues the program today. You’re also meeting Tanya Sulik, general manager with the Culver’s restaurant in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Shelley and Tanya received the 2019 Baraboo Education Association’s School Bell Award for their work as part of the Transition Plus program.

    If you’d like to learn more about Baraboo’s Transition Plus program, email Shelley Mordini (smordini@barabooschools.net). To learn more about Culver’s visit https://www.culvers.com/. Be sure to click on “stories” to learn about how they support their communities and the farming industry.

  • Creating Opportunity and Sharing Joy through Music in Viroqua, Wisconsin — PRTP9

    This episode of the Proud Rural Teacher Podcast is part of the Stories from the Driftless Series, a series dedicated to telling the digital stories of the teachers in the Driftless Region. The series is made possible thanks to a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative. The grant is part of RSC’s I am a Rural Teacher campaign, a national advocacy effort that is supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  

    Today we are talking about opportunity, community support, and the love of music in the Viroqua school district. Set in the heart of Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, the district is 25 miles Southeast of LaCrosse, with a student population just under 1200. Today you’re meeting Brad Thew, the MS/HS band director and music educator of 35 years. In this episode, he’ll share with you how he turned challenges into unique opportunities to create impactful moments for both his students and the community.  I hope as you listen, you’ll feel a sense of inspiration as we move into the second semester. 

    Watch the performances 👇👇👇

    VHS Marching Band Tailgate Party 2020 with High Mileage (Vernon County Broadcaster news article, October 13, 2020)

    VHS Marching Band playing at the Vernon Memorial Hospital (Vernon County Broadcaster news article, November 5, 2020)

    VHS Marching Band playing at a local senior care facility

    Additional moments of opportunity not mentioned in the podcast audio: “Coffee, Camaraderie and Keys”  features student & local musicians playing a short 30 minute concert at the start of each Wednesday (Viroqua’s staff only days). What a lovely way to begin a hectic day and show the value of Music Education!

    If you have questions, you can contact Brad at bthew@viroquablackhawk.org and/or follow him on Twitter @digitalbaton.

    You can also like the program on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ViroquaBands/

  • The Proud Rural Teacher Podcast Receives a Grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative – PRTP8

    Grant will help share Driftless area teachers’ stories nationwide

    PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Education recently received a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC), a national nonprofit committed to strengthening the bonds between schools and communities. The grant is part of RSC’s I am a Rural Teacher campaign, a national advocacy effort that is supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    The grant will support a collaboration between the RSC and the School of Education that will expand the Proud Rural Teacher podcast – created by Jessica Brogley, a lecturer in the School of Education – giving it a national audience.

    “The podcast initially started as a platform for us to share our initiatives, connect ideas related to rural living and education, and gather stories of teaching in rural areas, as a means of providing direction, resources, and inspiration for others who are just like us,” said Brogley.

    The podcast caught the attention of Gary Funk, executive director of the RSC, who found it to be a good fit for the I am a Rural Teacher campaign, which shares stories from rural teachers across the country. Collaborating with the RSC, Brogley will produce the Proud Rural Teacher Podcast: Stories from the Driftless, a special series from now until summer, that will celebrate the stories of educators in the Driftless region of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

    “We’re offering a platform for teachers in the Driftless region to share their stories of success, challenge, creative problem solving and, really, their passion for education in our rural communities,” said Brogley. “There is something very unifying in

    Proud Rural Teacher podcast host, Jessica Brogley.

    storytelling; it can create a shared experience that provides definition, awareness and inspiration. It’s important to celebrate the uniqueness of where we live and the work teachers do in those places. I’m thankful that we have this opportunity to facilitate the storytelling that represents education in the Driftless region.

    According to Funk, a goal of the I am a Rural Teacher campaign is to strengthen the capacity of partners to share their rural teacher stories, in different parts of the country. Soon the Driftless region will be among other partners’ stories – from the Missouri Ozarks to New England, Appalachia, the Alabama Black Belt region and more.

    “UW-Platteville’s presence in the Driftless region and history of working with students in rural communities, who then go back and serve as teachers in small towns is a great match for us,” said Funk. “I think the School of Education colleagues have a real focus on the importance of place and are doing activities that really tell the stories of folks – like the podcast – and those really align nicely with our mission and what we are trying to accomplish.”

    With approximately 80% of School of Education graduates teaching in rural places, UW-Platteville is well poised for this partnership, said Dr. Jennifer Collins, director of the School of Education.

    “It’s so cool to think that here in Southwest Wisconsin, there is such an opportunity for us to have our stories shared nationally,” said Collins. “There is real value in hearing our stories, just like everyone else’s stories. Particularly now, it’s important that we demonstrate that we value those voices and they have meaning and impact. It is so exciting.”

    Written by: Alison Parkins, associate director of Public Relations, UW-Platteville, parkinsal@uwplatt.edu

  • Capture Those Farming Stories – PRTP7

    Staying current with last week’s theme of digital storytelling, I wanted to share with you another example of the importance of recording our history. As part of a class assignment, one of my students, Jalen Schmitz, chose to learn how to use Soundtrap to record an interview with his grandfather about his time as a farmer in Lancaster in Southwest Wisconsin. It’s such a nice example of how we can leverage technology to facilitate conversation and capture a piece of our rural heritage. I’m hoping you’ll feel inspired by Jalen’s work and interview someone who has a story to tell.

    Google Meet allows you to record conversations when you can’t meet in person. In a nutshell, you’ll start your own meeting and click “add people.” From there you can add by email or by phone number, as Jalen did. Just warn your guest that their caller id will say “Google Meet” and not your name. 🙂 After they’ve joined the call, click the three dots in the bottom right corner and click record. Once you’re done, stop the recording and hangup. The file will arrive in your Google Drive account and you’ll be notified via email.

    Soundtrap allows you to edit the recorded conversation. For example, if there was downtime or disruptions, you can clip all of those out. You can also add in background music or sound effects.

  • Stories from the One Room Schoolhouse Days – PRTP6

    Bloomfield School, Wisconsin State Historical Society

    For the first half of the 20th century, if you were a kid in Southwest Wisconsin, you attended a one-room school. K-8, one room, one teacher. You walked miles to school throughout the seasons, and spent a tremendous amount of time with the same group of people. In Grant County, by 1912, we had 201 one-room schoolhouses, but by the end of the WWII, schools began consolidating. By 1950, most were gone. Today, some have been converted into homes, but many have been lost. Something though, that hasn’t are the stories. Today you’ll meet a dear friend of mine, Ron Weier of Platteville Wisconsin, who attended the Bloomfield school in the mid to late 50s. Bloomfield was centrally placed between Mineral Point and Dodgeville and served about 10 families. This type of school was pretty representative for our area. Part of our rural spirit, rests in capturing, understanding, and appreciating where we’ve come from. Enjoy today’s chat — it’s part of our history.

    You can read more about Grant County Rural Schools at the Wisconsin State Historical Society Website. There are lots of photographs too!

    Someday be sure to visit the Southwest Wisconsin Room at UW-Platteville where you can enjoy amazing resources about our local history.