Capstone Courses

The environmental studies capstone course (Envir St 600) is a required component for students completing our major. Priority is given to students declared in the environmental studies major. If you are an environmental studies certificate student, you may enroll on April 15 if seats remain. The capstone course will count toward the theme requirement for certificate students.

Fall 2015 Capstone Courses

Section 001: Last Child in the Park: How Kids and Birds Can Save the Planet
Anke Keuser
Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30a.m. and 2:00-5:00p.m.
To enroll, please contact Anke Keuser (

For the tenth straight semester, we 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

Here is an opportunity to be the change you want to see in the world.

It is critical that you are able to attend both morning and afternoon sessions consistently. Establishing a solid relationship with the Sherman students is extremely important, and you must be there for that relationship to develop. Attendance is 50% of your grade. The class is only held on Wednesdays.

Section 002: Building environmental awareness: A collaborative project with the Aldo Leopold Nature Center
Professor Paul Zedler
Tuesdays, 2:25-4:55 p.m.

The Aldo Leopold Nature Center (ALNC) in Monona is dedicated to environmental education. They offer programs that are resources to all age groups from pre-schoolers to adults. They have both indoor and outdoor activities and so run a year-round operation. They have an excellent display on climate change. In the fall of '14 a previous 600 class prepared a "phenology scavenger hunt" activity for elementary age kids (and their parents) which involved noting species and their stages outside and data entry and comparison inside. The class product was adopted with modifications, by the ALNC. This class will begin by reviewing what the previous class did, reviewing some relevant literatures, and then, jointly with the staff of the ALNC, we will work up a new project. The preliminary plan for the project will be presented to the ALNC staff, for their approval. Corrections and adjustments will be made, and the rest of the semester will be mostly spent gathering information and creating elements of whatever product has been selected. The class will conclude by presenting the final product to the ALNC staff, and then to the other 600 classes in the "Showcase" at the end of the semester. Given the focus of the ALNC on environmental education, our class project will be related to some aspect of that very broad subject. For more information on the ALNC you can visit their website:

Section 003: Radioactivity, People, and the Planet
Professor Cathy Middlecamp
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m.

Radioactivity! Perhaps no other phenomenon is so intertwined with our hopes and fears, our dreams and nightmares, perhaps even with the fate of us all. This course weaves together stories of radioactivity, people, and the planet. These stories portray the complex interactions between science, culture, and the environment.

Section 004: Water in a Changing World
Professor Mutlu Ozdogan
Thursdays, 2:25-4:45 p.m.

Earth is a water planet. Water in the atmosphere, on land, and in the oceans sustains life and great biodiversity. However, the amount of renewable fresh water comprises only a small fraction of global water resources and the mismatch between the demand and supply is increasing, thanks to global climate change and growing human populations. What will the Earth's fresh water resources look like in the next century? This course is designed to answer this fundamental question using recent evidence from both natural and social sciences. The course will be presented in two parts: i) Physical understanding of the water cycle in a changing world including a description of the hydrologic cycle, its natural and human-induced variability, the hydrologic impacts of human activities, and the predicted short- and long-term hydrologic changes and impacts under a changing climate; ii) Social understanding of the water cycle in a changing world including population pressure on water resources, economic development and water quality/quantity, access to water, and poverty and water. The class will be a combination of lectures and active participation by students in the form of collaborative research, classroom presentations, software simulations and visualizations, and extended discussions. The main objectives of this course include exposing students to main physical principles of the global water cycle, forming an in-depth understanding of the relationship between humans, climate, and water systems, and providing a view of disparate distribution of fresh water resources from a changing climate and socioeconomic window.

Section 006: Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison
Abby Jackson, Dadit Hidayat, and Alfonso Morales
Tuesdays, 4:30-7:30 p.m.

Join the "Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison" course and become part of an impactful project that is working to improve access to healthy food via sustainable, urban agriculture. In general, the proposed project builds food justice capacity in South Madison by forging a network of entrepreneurship opportunities in the field of urban agriculture for formerly incarcerated citizens while improving healthy food access to the broader South Madison community. Objectives for the fall of 2015 capstone course include:

Students will be involved in both planning and execution processes, and will work closely with SMFM leader Robert Pierce, Nehemiah's Director of Reentry Services Anthony Cooper, and ManUp participants/FIIs. The course will rely heavily on student participation and motivation to support our community partner's vision beyond the classroom. The class is set to meet in the late afternoon so that we could overlap with the reentry services schedule. But in general, flexible schedules are expected as likely we will have project tasks that require students to go to meetings outside of regular class times. Students are required to obtain their free bus pass from ASM in preparation of the first class.

This course is designed for students who want to learn and be part of a unique interpretation of interdisciplinary learning, translating academic knowledge to community action. Designed as a community environmental organizing class, this course will be open to all majors and will address issues on marginalized community, public health, poverty, racism, reentry services, nonprofit organizations, popular education, local food systems and informal science learning.

This project is based on a community-university partnership, which was originally initiated when we partnered with the South Madison Farmers' Market (SMFM) in the 2013-2014 academic year. In that year, capstone students conducted community-based research and put together some initial community organizing efforts in understanding the problems with low vendor participation and low sales in the past few years. We were then in discussion with the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development (Nehemiah) about linking their initiative with FIIs to the field commercial urban agriculture. In the spring of 2015, capstone students designed and run a pilot "Eat and Greet" event where we engaged FIIs around CUA. Another group of students in that semester put together a proposal for a two-year project in building community-based food justice infrastructure to the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment. The proposal was accepted and the project will begin this fall with this class' support.