Capstone Courses Archive

The environmental studies capstone course is a required component for students completing our majors. Priority is given to students declared in the environmental studies major. If you are an environmental studies certificate student, you may enroll on Nov. 19 if seats remain. The capstone course will count toward the theme requirement for certificate students.

Fall 2013 Capstone Courses

Section 002: Bridging the Future and the Past: Envisioning the Badger Army Ammunition Plant Interpretive Trail
Prof. Paul Zedler

This course will examine the multiple dimensions of environmental conservation and ecological restoration as seen locally in the case of the 7,000-acre Badger Army Ammunitions Plant outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Students will be briefed on the cultural and natural history of the area as well as recent challenges and opportunities for conservation efforts. The focus of the course is a service-learning project in which students work with a conservation organization and community groups, and other stakeholders to develop a conceptual plan for a interpretive trail through the Badger property. This project will require students to consider how to use a natural area with a rich history of human use to deliver general environmental messages. It will allow students to observe and contribute to real and tangible issues facing this important area-in-planning.

Important note: One Saturday field trip in the first month is required. Willingness to attend evening meetings in Sauk County at times to be announced also expected. Class will also participate in the end of semester wrap up event.

Section 003: Community Gardens in South West Madison
Ashleigh Ross with Prof. Sam Dennis

Although this course is still in the planning phase, we anticipate that this capstone course will work directly with 6th grade teachers and students from Toki Middle School to design their school and community garden. The course will cover environmental education, garden and landscape design, and community gardening. Students are required to spend at least 25 hours working out in the community.

Section 004: Birding to Change the World
Trish O'Kane with Prof. Jack Kloppenburg

Trish O'Kane and Jack Kloppenburg will be cooperating with staff at Madison's Sherman Middle School to provide a nature study program to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. A high percentage of Sherman ethnically diverse students live in poverty. The school is making herculean efforts to meet student needs by providing after-school programming. Our class helps the school meet those needs by pairing UW students as after-school mentors with a Sherman student.

Every Wednesday morning from 7:30-9:30am, our UW class meets for an introduction to basic field ornithology in the Lakeshore Preserve. No experience is necessary. Bird identification is a satisfying skill to acquire and birds are a beautiful portal to better understanding and appreciation of the biophysical world. You will learn how to identify Wisconsin's most common birds by sight and sound, then you will teach that skill to your middle school student "co-explorer." Later that same day, every Wednesday afternoon from 2:00-5:00pm, we meet as a class at Sherman Middle School on Madison's Northside (free transportation provided by the university). Together with Sherman's Nature Explorers Club, we walk as a group to Warner Park. We spend the afternoon exploring to learn what the park and its landscape and wild creatures have to teach us, and what we all have to teach each other. We do some group activities like harvesting garlic mustard, planting prairie seeds, birdwatching and fort-building, but you will be paired with a Sherman middleschooler as "co-explorers" in a nature-mentoring relationship. You will help your Sherman co-explorer develop academic and social skills while building an awareness of and appreciation for the natural resources of Warner Park. And your co-explorer will teach you what he or she already knows about their wonderful park and its furred, finned and feathered residents. For a recent press account of this work, see

Section 005: Sustainable Agriculture & Community-Based Research
Trish O'Kane with Prof. Jack Kloppenburg

Farmers' markets are one of many links in food systems that is consistent with the spirit of sustainable agriculture. It is also an attempt to educate local community about sustainable agriculture by consuming local fresh produce and supporting local economy (local farmers). At this point, we are still developing the course that is anticipated to work with the South Madison Farmer's Market (SMFM, led by Robert Pierce. With Robert as the Market Manager, SMFM has been one of most vibrant gathering places in South Madison community, that has a diverse ethnic population and is economically disadvantaged. SMFM has been expanded to open in four places (Gilbert Rd, Madison Labor Temple, Rimrock Rd, and Village Mall) with the goal to get closer to potential local buyers in South Madison community. However, SMFM is still experiencing low sales from local community, which implies the low support from of local community in promoting sustainable agriculture. Consequently, SMFM has been experiencing low participation from local vendors.

This capstone course will help bridge the gap between science and the public, in collaboration with the SMFM. After a decade managing the market, Robert and other SMFM organizers are wondering how they can improve community's belief systems and practices on sustainable agriculture. Their hope is that students could both collect this information, as well as further spread the word about SMFM across the community. Some class activities may include conducting a South Madison neighborhood level assessment of demand as it relates to SMFM, and identifying points of access such as Growing Power Market Baskets and food outlets in the area.

This capstone will focus on two learning goals for students. First, students will learn how sustainable agriculture concepts and practices are communicated, and the challenges involved in changing individual behavior as it relates to food consumption. Second, this class will train students in specific methodological skills for conducting community-based research. Students will also learn aspects related to community organizing and community building.

Students will be involved in all phases of the research process, and will collaborate directly with SMFM throughout the project. For some parts of the class, students will be working in South Madison and will need flexible schedules. About 2-4 class sessions will be held on Monday morning in The Resilience Research Center

Section 006: Domestic and International Dimensions of Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Development
Sarah Stefanos and Aleia McCord with Prof. Rob Beattie

This class is a service learning course in which students will work with a community organization, the Farley Center, to identify and fill the knowledge gaps about implementation of an exciting renewable energy technology: micro-scale biogas. Students will leverage the expertise of Ugandan micro-scale biogas experts and that of Madison engineers. Additionally, students will be able to derive best practices from visiting Growing Power, an urban farm in Milwaukee, and learning about their experience of working with biogas. Examples of potential projects for the Farley Center about micro-scale biogas implementation include: (1) feedstock analysis, (2) energy audit, (3) report on relevant regulatory issues, (4) cost/benefit analysis for different end-uses of the gas, or (5) surveys of small farm energy and fertilizer use. At the end of the class, students will present their findings at the Farley Center. For students interested in domestic and international dimensions of renewable energy technologies and sustainable development, this is an ideal course.