A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna who teaches middle and high school science in northeastern Wisconsin has plans to use a $1,000 grant award for an outdoor teaching project.
Monica Wagner, a Lena native who graduated in January from the UW Oshkosh act! program, recently was notified of the $1,000 grant award from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Teachers’ Outdoor Environmental Education Fund for her proposed “pollinator species planting” outdoor project at her Suring school.
Wagner teaches middle and high school science, reaching about 75-85 students in her district, located in Oconto County northeast of Green Bay. The outdoor project is planned to take place next spring in the school district’s forest property. The Suring School District is providing $1,000 in matching funds to pay for substitute teachers who will assist when some of the other full-time teachers and custodians help in the forest.
“I applied for four different grants over the summer,” Wagner said. “It was real exciting to get (this one).”
Wagner said she intends to plant wildflowers to help increase food sources for pollinator species and to work with the technology teacher to build bird, butterfly, bat and bee shelters. The project will show students the importance of pollinators–why helping them is important and how we can help them.
“I (recently) took students outside–we have a 160-acre school forest–and they just loved it. I had them write down what they hear, see, smell and can touch,” she said. “They get cooped up for eight hours and they just enjoyed being outside. I think if they can be good citizens, good stewards of the land, it will be good for the environment and the world.”
Wagner said students will get their hands dirty next spring when they plant wildflowers and build pollinator homes, an undertaking she said that will help students when they are adults and making their own gardens. The project also will teach them the importance of giving back to the community and the environment.
Wagner said attracting pollinators involves plants that serve all stages of their lifespan, including a place to lay eggs, plants for food, a place to form chrysalides and a pace for a nectar source when they are adults. She said classes will study the number of pollinators, what stages they are discovered in and where they are found. They will capture different pollinators, including birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths and beetles and feed them over several days and journal their results.
“Monica Wagner has brought energy into district with her passion for learning and engaging children in the science classroom,” said Kelly Casper, Suring Public School District administrator. “Her willingness to put forth the extra effort to give more to our school and students is to be commended. The funds received from this environmental grant will provide Mrs. Wagner the opportunity to open more doors to the learning of science outside of the classroom.”
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin provides sustainable funding for Wisconsin’s most imperiled species and public lands, while connecting generations to the wonders of Wisconsin’s lands, waters and wildlife through conservation, education, engagement and giving.
The Wisconsin Teachers’ Outdoor Environment Education Fund was established through the Foundation by Pete Ostlind in memory of his wife, Sue Spaeth, a Wisconsin native and elementary school teacher.
Since it was established in 2010, the Teachers’ Outdoor Fund has provided $30,532 to 36 different school projects across Wisconsin.
The Teachers Outdoor Environmental Education Fund provides grants of up to $1,000 for public school teachers (K-12) for outdoor environmental projects. The goal of the fund is to get kids outdoors and connected to their environment, to make sure they understand there’s more to what they’re learning than the pictures they see in their textbooks.
Wagner recently learned that the UW Oshkosh director of the act! program she graduated from, Michael Beeth, is a friend of Ostlind.
The UW Oshkosh Alternative Careers in Teaching (act!) program provides a path to initial Wisconsin licensure as a secondary mathematics or science teacher or as a technology education teacher. The program is tailored to adults looking to change careers or find a flexible and fast way to become licensed.
Wagner said she worked in the sports medicine field for Bellin Health, prior to her full-time teaching career. She continues to coach youth sports teams and work part-time for Bellin (she worked five Friday night football games this season.)
“Monica Wagner came to the realization she wanted to teach science a little later in life than many students.,” Beeth said. “While a student in the act! program, she demonstrated an insatiable desire to learn to teach science well—so much so that she was asked to share her knowledge of teaching with colleagues in the Suring School District during her first year of teaching.”
Beeth said the students Wagner teaches are the real beneficiaries of her expertise.
“Planting wildflowers and adding homes for pollinator species will enable our students to see the importance of nature and our environment,” Wagner said. “Pollination is needed to keep all of our natural cycles working correctly.”