One day after learning about deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from biology professor Dr. Christine Schneider, 18 students from Milwaukee’s Acosta Middle School found themselves in the wilds of Waukesha County, hacking at branches and helping to clear an invasive shrub, buckthorn, from a wooded area.
The students were participating in a unique program that brought middle schoolers from Milwaukee’s near southside together with graduate students in Carroll University’s Master of Arts in Teaching
(MAT) program for a week of learning and discovery. The program, called the Acosta Environmental Education Adventure and funded by a grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, is a win-win: the Acosta students get some hands-on environmental education, and Carroll’s education students receive an opportunity to practice the teaching skills they have been learning.
In late June of this summer, Ana Diaz ’13, a Carroll alumna and science teacher at Acosta, led a group of 18 Acosta seventh- and eighth-graders to Carroll. The students spent time on Carroll’s main campus, visiting labs in the Michael and Mary Jaharis Science Laboratories
building, and toured the Waukesha wastewater treatment plant, among other sites, but the highlight of the week was the time out at Carroll’s Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center
“This is such a different environment for them all,” said Diaz. “They’ve been really excited to come out here every day.”
At Prairie Springs, the Acosta students experience a habitat quite removed from the near southside Milwaukee neighborhood surrounding their school—75 acres of woods, wetlands, springs and grassland.
“The kids are really loving it, being out here with the bugs and dirt and all,” said Emilie Thomas, a Carroll education student. “Their favorite thing to do so far is catch frogs!”