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Institute for Learning Partnership

Children Meet Nature at the Outdoor Academy for Kids (OAK) School

4k students looking at a snake.

Ponds, hiking trails, and wildlife exhibits are the classroom spaces, and animals that wander into the area, including rabbits, snakes, toads and worms, are the classroom tools for forty 4K students in Green Bay.

The Outdoor Academy for Kids (OAK) School located at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is a new concept for Green Bay. It is the first nature-based four-year-old kindergarten program connected to a public school district in Wisconsin. The program is a partnership between UW-Green Bay, the Green Bay Area Public School District, and the City of Green Bay.

Admission is open to all, although families in the Green Bay Area Public School District have first choice for enrollment. The popular program is currently full with a waiting list.

Lessons are co-taught by a licensed teacher and a certified naturalist. Pre-service teachers from UW-Green Bay are gaining valuable hands-on experiences in environmental education and early childhood. 

The four-year-olds use the outdoors for their classroom, except for bathroom breaks, snack time, and when extreme weather conditions exist. For example, twenty students recently worked together to construct an eagle’s nest. This project involved engineering principles, math concepts, and collaboration. The overall program is based on four different domains — academic, physical, social and emotional.

Mike Reed is the director of the Wildlife Sanctuary. UW-Green Bay professors Scott Ashmann and Jennifer Lanter and Provost Julia Wallace are members of the OAK School Advisory Committee.

Healthy Living Soul Sisters Grant Project

Manitowoc (Wis.) educators got an opportunity to explore closing the  achievement gap through a wellness project, “Healthy Living Soul Sisters” at McKinley Academy in Manitowoc. The Institute funded the grant.

The program supports 28 at-risk teen girls, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and benefits of healthy lifestyles and relationships.

Gina Wagner, project director, received nearly $7,000 from the Institute to implement the program that is building trust and improving self-esteem among teen girls, important factors that impact student learning and achievement.

Team-building activity.

The grant provides funds for field trips and team-building activities. Other activities include picking vegetables to support healthy eating habits at home and also exploring healthy food alternatives.

The students created a Facebook page for the Healthy Living class. It provides a safe place to discuss issues students are dealing with, get advice and support, read inspiring quotes, view positive pictures and share memories.

According to Wagner, the program’s positive impact is noticeable in the students’ personal lives and the school climate.

“There has been a noticeable change in the school climate,” she said. “There is virtually no drama among our girls. In addition, the students are often observed mingling with others outside of their usual social circles,” she said. “We have been able to foster a safe atmosphere for students to discuss and ask questions in regards to healthy relationships, the care of their bodies, and many other intimate topics.”

Here are a few comments from the students about how the ILP grant is helping their school.

  • “The grant helped our school by bringing all the girls together, encouraging us to be drama free and taking us on trips to make us come together.”
  • “The changes are huge, more laughter and opportunities to work together as a team. It is bringing us closer together.”

iPads and Chromebooks Improving Student Engagement

Robinson Elementary School students in the Laona (Wis.) School District are benefitting from two separate $7,500 Institute for Learning Partnership grants.

The grants funded iPads for the kindergarten through second grades to improve math and reading skills and Chromebooks for sixth graders to improve writing skills. Both devices continue to improve students’ technology skills while also increasing math, reading, writing skills and student engagement.

Laona elementary students use iPads to improve math and reading skills.

“When students are using the iPads, they are so engaged they don’t even think of it as work,” said Kathy Krawze. “The learning through this interactive way really keeps them engaged.”

“The IPads have also made it possible to meet the individual needs of students,” said Ms. Stacy Flannery, sixth-grade teacher and the grant’s principal investigator. 

“It is a great tool because you can get a lot more information than just using a textbook,” said Liam, a Laona sixth-grader.

FIRED UP About Reading

Abrams Elementary students using iPads.

An Institute for Learning Partnership (ILP) grant awarded to Abrams (Wis.) Elementary School is supporting students’ love for reading and strengthening an internal motivation that will last a lifetime.

Elementary school teachers Danielle Baade and Shana Pociask received a $2,485 ILP grant for their “FIRED Up About Reading” project to address “summer reading slide off” among fourth-grade readers at Abrams. The slide off refers to students’ slow decline in reading skills over the summer months.

The grant provided Kindle Fires loaded with appropriate-leveled books and applications that were used during the school year and the summer to help maintain and improve reading skills. The program fostered parent participation during a Camp Fire Night that kicked off the summer reading with Kindle Fires.

Teachers confirm that the “FIRED Up About Reading” program was a great success in avoiding the summer slide.

“Every one of the participants maintained their reading level and many improved,” Baade said.

“As professionals we also gained new insights into action research and technology implementation and we grew professionally; but the biggest winners were the students,” Pociask said.

Student Isabelle Dequaine commented in support of the program.

“I really liked how the books were on here (the Kindle) and that I could just carry this instead of a book. I liked how it showed where I was in the book. I also liked the learning games,” she said.