North Side School Welcomes Nature Course

School repurposes utility poles to help kids connect with nature.

The Madison area offers a lot of outdoor amenities, but spending quality time with nature isn't always easy for everyone. That's a reality that hit home for a north side teacher who spearheaded an effort to bring nature closer to her elementary school students. Susie Hobart says a majority of the more than 250 students at Madison's Lake View Elementary School live in urban apartments.

Now retired, Hobart was a teacher at Lake View in 2011 when she began working with the Madison Area GROW Coalition to establish an “outdoor classroom” with the goal of helping students learn more about nature and the environment. Staffers and volunteers constructed garden beds, a rain garden and a shelter where classes could be taught. Lake View also started an “Eco Leaders” program. Students volunteer to collect data on plants and wildlife during recess.

Lake View Elementary Outdoor Education Coordinator Susie Hobart speaks at the school's Save the Woods event.

Lake View Elementary Outdoor Education Coordinator Susie Hobart speaks at the school's Save the Woods event.

"Save the Woods" effort begins

Lake View Elementary enjoys three acres of woods as its backyard. When developers slated half an acre for new apartments, Hobart partnered with Groundswell Conservancy—a local nonprofit conservation organization—to preserve the land, organizing a fundraising effort to purchase the parcel to create a nature course. With support from the community—including the MGE Foundation, the Madison Metropolitan School District and other partners—Lake View was able to expand its space for outdoor learning. To celebrate, the school hosted a "Save the Woods" event in August to unveil it.

“We hope students for years to come can grow up to appreciate the outdoors and become stewards of the environment because of what we’ve created and now preserved,” says Hobart, who now volunteers as Lake View’s outdoor education coordinator. “MGE is very conscious of environmental stewardship and they really helped us accomplish our mission.”

Lake View's nature course, which is being built by Operation Fresh Start, features a couple of utility poles from MGE that have been repurposed. Other poles donated by MGE will serve as benches throughout the wooded area.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to repurpose these utility poles," said Jim Jenson, MGE Community Education Manager. "If they can help further conservation education by bringing kids outside to interact with nature, that’s a great use."

published: Sep-27-2018