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.

Spring 2013 Capstone Courses

Section 002: 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

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 a large percentage of your grade. The class is only held on Wednesdays.

All students must apply to enroll as you will be working with a middle school student; we screen our students carefully.

Section 003: Community-based research with the Natural Step Monona
Dadit Hidayat with Prof. Randy Stoecker

After two previous community-based capstone courses (, we would like to analyze the impacts of our efforts. This is a crucial step in understanding how the community of Monona has been affected by the outreach, education, events, and actions leading up to and during The Year of Water (TYoW, In this capstone course, we will focus on two learning goals for students. First, the class will train students in understanding how social change happens through study of the social movements literature, including readings on political opportunity structures, social movement coalitions, participant recruitment, and issue framing strategies. Second, students will learn how to conduct a community impact assessment of a community-based project through training in specific evaluation research skills to document outcomes of TYoW and the challenges involved in changing individual behavior and government policy. Students will be involved in all phases of the research process, and will collaborate directly with The Natural Step Monona members throughout the project. For some parts of the class, students will be working in Monona and will need flexible schedules.

Section 004: Community Gardens in South West Madison
Ashleigh Ross and 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 006: Connecting Producers and Consumers in the Sustainable Marketplace
Andrew Case

A goal of many efforts to redefine and redirect production and consumption towards sustainable ends has been to create direct connections between producers and consumers in the marketplace. Captured most readily in concepts like "farm-to-table" restaurants and the motto "know-your-farmer-know-your-food," the concept of marketing directly to consumers extends beyond agricultural and food products to many parts of the economy. In this capstone course, students will:

  1. Study changing relationships between producers and consumers of food and agricultural products
  2. Survey theories of marketing and sustainability
  3. Conduct a service-learning project that explores the creation, implementation, and impact of direct-to-consumer relationships on businesses and community partners
  4. Develop skills in the research and analysis of interdisciplinary questions consistent with the goals of a capstone course

Section 007: Urban Food Systems, Food Security and the Environment
Prof. Monica White

This course will examine the relationship between food systems and the environment and allow students to identify a project of interest that they will develop from a research question to data collection and analysis. We will pay particular attention to the role of urban agriculture in community-based food systems and analyze the various social, political and environmental impacts of a local food movement. There is a mandatory, expense paid trip to Detroit for a portion of Spring Break where students will explore one of the nation's most vibrant urban agricultural communities. In order to understand community responses to food insecurity, students will examine the food landscape from production (i.e. agriculture) to distribution and participate in community service activities, like work at a community gardening project. Students will also meet with and interview local residents and stakeholders in the urban agricultural movement.