Outdoor Learning For All

Award Winning Entry: Pennington Habitat Hero

Lincoln Elementary School in Madison, WI, hopes to strengthen local communities and foster pride by providing their families, students, and teachers with access to outdoor learning activities. The students’ love of Backyard Birds began with students each “adopting” one backyard bird species and becoming experts about it using Cornell University’s All About Birds website, the “Birder’s Handbook,” and field guides. They then created a circular calendar to map out each species’ annual life cycle, using it to compare bird plumage, habitat use, nesting times, nest shapes/sizes/placements, and migration maps. One class has led the rest of the school through the Great Wisconsin Bird-a-thon for bird habitat and conservation efforts, raising $151 for bird conservation efforts!

More recently, the school has engaged in citizen-science efforts through eBird, Project FeederWatch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count. Students monitor classroom bird feeders on a daily basis and are responsible for data entry. Additionally, classes have also worked together to: 1) make a quarter-mile gravel walking path around the playground, 2) purchase 14 pairs of binoculars, bird field guides, and BirdSleuth curriculum to support science classroom instruction, 3) create an Orienteering Kit, including compasses and a scavenger hunt, and 4) create a school garden.

Students and the greater community have also been involved in the school’s Outdoor Learning Lab. The local Girls on the Run program uses our walking path during the fall and spring, while volunteers from the Madison Audubon Society, UW-Madison Wildlife Society student chapters, and other community organizations have come into classrooms to expose students to orienteering, birding, and the science of nature. Lincoln Elementary School was recently honored with a Conservation Scholar Award from the Madison Audubon Society for our efforts in both citizen science and the Great Wisconsin Bird-a-thon.