Capstone Courses

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 2014 Capstone Courses

Section 001: Latino Earth Partnership: Engaging Youth as Environmental Stewards
Claire Shaller with Prof. Sam Dennis
Wednesdays, 2:25-5:25 p.m.

The Arboretum's Earth Partnership program began in 1991 to bring restoration education into schools and communities, engaging students of all ages in conservation action. By studying ecology, planning a restoration, and getting their hands in the soil, planting, students receive an interdisciplinary educational experience and develop a positive relationship with the natural world. Latino Earth Partnership provides community-based, culturally relevant learning experiences that inspire youth. Latino students are underrepresented in scientific fields and careers, yet Latino culture emphasizes connections to land and community - these connections should be celebrated and utilized to improve Madison's ecological and human communities. Latino Earth Partnership will collaborate with school and community partners to develop educational resources that incorporate cultural knowledge and Spanish language, connecting students and families to their environments.

In this course, you will learn to restore native landscapes to facilitate educational opportunities and community action as you visit Madison schools and community centers on a weekly basis. Service learning opportunities will include developing activities to increase environmental awareness, helping teachers implement environmental education in their classrooms, teaching in after school programs, and facilitating community events and restoration work at Centro Hispano and the Arboretum. You will work in groups supported throughout the process by your instructors and Earth Partnership staff. This course invites students to utilize all they have learned about ecology, education, environmental justice, and service in order to make real and lasting change in their community. Enroll in this course and become part of the Latino Earth Partnership movement!

Spanish AND non-Spanish speakers are welcome to join.

Interested? Contact Claire Shaller.

Section 002: Building environmental awareness: A collaborative project with the Aldo Leopold Nature Center
Paul Zedler
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30-3:45 p.m.

An Envir St 600 class in Fall '13 (Alison Duff, Paul Zedler, instructors) worked with the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance to develop environmental information on the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant that could be accessed by use of QR codes and smart phones. This approach, which has been applied elsewhere, allows great flexibility in information delivery and has the advantage of reducing the need for expensive and vandal-vulnerable traditional signage. In discussions with staff at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center (ALNC) in Monona, it was decided to start with the "Fall '13 model" and use it to advance the nature education programs at the ALNC. Because of the flexibility of the technology, there will be considerable scope for the kinds of information that can be conveyed and which aspects of the site can be highlighted. Of special interest is the unique installation treating climate change in the ALNC visitor center. This offers the opportunity to tie in very large global themes with very local "hands-on" experience. The broad mission of the ALNC will permit students of any major or special interest to make valuable contributions. The project will, however, be approached as a group, not just a set of individual contributions. Class activities will include visits to the ALNC site, meetings with ALNC staff and a final presentation at the ALNC to interested parties to present the results of the semester's work.

Section 003: Lead in Madison Soils - Evaluating, Reducing Risk, and Learning in the Classroom and Madison Communities
Prof. Steve Ventura, Prof. Nick Balster, and Francis Eanes
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 12:05-12:55 p.m.

Students will:

Section 004: Birding to Change the World
Anke Keuser
Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30a.m. and 2:00-5:00p.m.

To enroll: Please contact Anke Keuser

For the eighth straight semester, we will be coordinating with staff at Madison's Sherman Middle School to provide a nature study program to sixth, seventh and eighth 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 7:30-9:30, our 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 2-5, we meet as a class at Sherman Middle School on Madison's north side (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 such as 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.

Read a recent press account of this work:

Section 005: Latin American Environmental History
Prof. Elizabeth Hennessy
Tuesdays, 3:30-5:25 p.m.

To enroll: Please contact Melissa Frazier

Latin America is home to some of the world's most famous landscapes - from Amazonian forests considered the "lungs of the earth" to soaring Andean peaks where melting glaciers have become a deadly effect of climate change. From silver ore laboriously dug from colonial-era mines to vast plantations of sugar cane and bananas, Latin American natural resources have played a central role in the development of economies and societies in the region and around the world. This course will survey changing human relationships with the natural world in the region we now call Latin America from the pre-Columbian period; through colonization and the colonial era; through the independence struggles of the nineteenth century; to contested visions of nationalism, economic development, and appropriate use of natural resources in the twentieth century; on down to the environmental questions that the region faces today. We will examine both how different peoples have understood, lived with, used, and transformed the environment as well as how the natural world has shaped human histories.

We will draw on readings from multiple disciplinary perspectives (including history, anthropology and geography) to analyze processes of imperialism, capitalist development, and the degradation of natural resources. We will ask how these processes relate to the production of scientific knowledge, global environmentalism, and issues of social justice. In the second half of the course students will develop a research paper on a case study of their choice. Previous experience in or course work about the region would be helpful, but is not required.

Section 006: Community Gardens in Southwest Madison
Caitlin Henning with Prof. Sam Dennis
Tuesdays, 2:30-5:00 p.m.

The Community and School Gardens in Southwest Madison course is designed to expose UW students to a broad range of experiences with, and perspectives about, community and school gardens while providing direct service and infrastructure support to garden programs.

Southwest Madison has seen an increase in violence and neighborhood tensions over the last ten years and community leaders are promoting garden programs to provide youth employment opportunities, increase access to healthy food, and to beautify the neighborhood. The class will explore the intersection of participatory planning, public health, sustainable agriculture, community development, and environmental justice through the varied garden programs in the Southwest Madison community.

The course content and community projects allow for students to bring their experience and expertise to bear by working on specific projects that are of interest to the student and provide tangible benefits for our partners. In addition to course readings and class time, students will attend meetings with community partners and collaborate on projects ranging from faith-based food pantries to school composting programs.

This course will encourage students to synthesize academic knowledge, community development experience, and urban agriculture methods. The service-learning component of the class may include hands-on garden assistance; leading garden/environmental education clubs; and research, planning, and infrastructure support.

Community partners include Front Yard Gardens, Lincoln Elementary, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ, and Meadowood Neighborhood Center and others.