The Partners in Education (PIE) committee focuses on developing deep relationships with two partner schools: Oliver Wendell Holmes (OWH) and Brown Street Academy (BSA). Rotary volunteers mentor, do homework coaching, participate in daily literacy programs, and more.
As part of these partnerships, funds from the RCM Community Trust pay for the participation of BSA and OWH students in the Urban Ecology Center’s Neighborhood Environmental Education Project (NEEP). Our Trust contribution of $8,400 allows almost all of the students at OWH and BSA to make two trips to the UEC each year for classes 2-3 hours in length.
The UEC’s science-based programs range from basic wildlife and ecology studies, to the physics of sound and light, to simple machines, to energy, to recycling.Each class includes an outdoor component to strengthen kids’ direct relationship to nature, as well as providing kinesthetic learning opportunities.
Programs are tailored to grade levels from K4 through high school, and include service learning and conservation lessons as well as science education. Third graders might learn about water conservation on a hike by the river, while seventh graders might practice sampling techniques while studying the biodiversity of multiple ecosystems represented in Riverside Park. All grade levels are offered opportunities to give back to the community through service learning field trips that deepen their connection to their neighborhood green space.
“The NEEP program does an amazing job of packing in a lot of education in a couple of hours,” says BSA teacher Joanne Shields, “And it really lines up with what I’m teaching in the classroom.” In fact, teachers can request a custom NEEP program to meet a specific educational goal. “We’re always looking for the opportunity to incorporate more exploration for our kids – this is an amazing source of hands-on learning that the kids can’t get anywhere else.”
The NEEP program provides a critical venue for science and environmental education for BSA and OWH students through the UEC’s outdoor classroom – an outdoor classroom that is growing with the creation of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. The arboretum increases the amount of land available for field trips from 14 acres in Riverside Park to 40 acres.
“The arboretum will significantly increase the plant and animal biodiversity of our Outdoor Classroom and aid in cleaning up the Milwaukee River, increasing the quality of the ecosystems we are teaching in and about,” says UEC Environmental Education Manager Sarah Rohe. “We will be able to offer programs on land restoration, brownfield redevelopment and the oak savanna ecosystem which is being planted in the newly created green
The UEC requires an adult chaperone for every 13 students. Brown Street Academy has a need for volunteer chaperones – a great way to interact with kids from a RCM partner school while exploring RCM’s centennial gift to the community. Contact PIE chair Dave McClurg for more information.