River Excursions: The Utilization of the Wisconsin River as an Outdoor Teaching Resource for Lower Elementary Teachers in the Sauk-Prairie School District
Kochaver, Tamara F.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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The Sauk-Prairie School District is fortunate to have access to a remarkable resource - The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. The Wisconsin River is rich in local history and is an important natural resource. The Native Americans traveled in their birch bark canoes and planted corn in the prairies. The fur trappers and traders followed the river bringing pelts and furs. The first explorers navigated the river when discovering a new land and searching for the Mississippi River. The Wisconsin River also provides a habitat for a variety of animals-eagles soar here, paddlefish lurk the waters, beavers gnaw on the river edge and mussels hold on to the bottom of the river. The flora and fauna are rich in diversity due to the variety of plant communities in the river valley. The geological history formations are evident in the sandstone bluff and glacial remains. The recreation benefits are numerous ranging from boating, fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing. Aesthetic inspiration provides an impetus for artists, poets, film makers and regional writers such as August Derleth. These river resources could be valuable to the educational process of increasing environmental awareness and sensitivity in children. The river provides a natural setting which is relative to children's lives because their community surrounds the river. The river excursions allow for learning in an outdoor setting which can provide early exposure to nature. Teachers can act as role models of environmental ethics to children when leading field trips to the river. Many environmental leaders ( Tanner, 1980) claim their sensitivity towards the environment stems from early exposure to nature and chances to explore and wonder. Too frequently our children are not allowed to romp and roam through natural areas inspired by their own natural curiosity. This study will address the importance of early exposure of students to outdoor areas and use of teachers as role models of environmental ethics as critical elements in the formation of environmental sensitivity in young children. Developing techniques and strategies to utilize the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway and training for K-2 teachers will hopefully allow children to be inquisitive, to wonder, to explore and to reflect on a remarkable resource - The Lower Wisconsin Scenic Riverway.