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 November 19 if seats remain. The capstone course will count toward the theme requirement for certificate students.

Spring 2015 Capstone Courses

Section 001: Latino Earth Partnership: Engaging Youth as Environmental Stewards
Claire Shaller with Prof. Sam Dennis, Jr.
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 afterschool 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: Neighborhood and School Gardens: Overcoming Barriers to Outdoor Learning and Community Engagement in Madison
Caitlin Henning with Prof. Sam Dennis, Jr.
Tuesdays, 2:30-5:00 p.m.

This 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.

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 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 the current semester project.

This semester we will be building off of groundwork laid in the fall. Students will be working with Sustain Dane, the Madison Metropolitan School District, and participating schools to create sustainability plans for the GROW Coalition's 15 newly established school and community gardens.

This course encourages 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.

Section 003: Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison with the South Madison Farmers' Market
Abby Jackson, Dadit Hidayat, and Margaret Nellis
Thursdays, 2:25-5:25 p.m.

Students will work together with South Madison Farmers' Market (SMFM) organizers such as Robert Pierce and Shellie Pierce in building food justice capacity in South Madison. SMFM has experienced low vendor participation and low sales in the past few years, which has worsened the access to safe-affordable-healthy food for the South Madison community. Building off the work of the two previous service learning capstone courses, we now plan to identify future growers from within the South Madison community and train them in commercial urban agriculture. Eventually, we will connect these new growers with SMFM to help rejuvenate the market and improve the access of safe-affordable-healthy food.

In addition to SMFM, we will work closely with a few local organizations. Mr. Pierce has made initial contacts with the Madison-Area Urban Ministry and Nehemiah to work with their re-entry program but nothing has been finalized. We are also still identifying other potential local organizations to partner in this project. In the beginning of the semester, students will help finalize our collaborative project that focuses on a) organize and promote mini urban agriculture workshops b) engage participants of these mini workshops and identify individuals who have potential to become new growers.

These project goals give students the opportunity to do real-world application of community organizing and will give experience with working in a low-income, multi-ethnic population area. The class will rely heavily on student participation/motivation to support our community partner's vision beyond the classroom. Flexible schedules are also expected as likely we will occasionally meet outside of regular class times, early in the morning and/or in the evenings.

Students interested in any of the following should consider taking this class:

Section 004: Designing Small-scale Farmer Sustainable Agriculture Education with Community GroundWorks
Randy Stoecker and Liangfei Ye
Wednesdays, 2:25-5:25 p.m.

This course will collaborate with Community GroundWorks – a Madison area organization focused on connecting people to nature and local food. Together we will develop a community-based and higher education-supported model for new small-scale farmers interested in sustainable agriculture.

Our collaboration will build knowledge around four topics: what learning needs small-scale sustainable farmers had when they started out (and learning needs they may still have) and what they might teach others; what existing education programs around the world offer to small-scale sustainable farmers; what grants and other funding sources are available to support such programs; and what conditions among education institutions and organizations in the Madison area might hinder or facilitate the development of a new program.

The course will integrate literatures and experience-based knowledge about small-scale farming, sustainable agriculture, and community-based learning methods. Students will have choices in working on specialized teams to learn specific research methods, fundraising and grant-seeking, and higher education curriculum development policy. The community-engaged course can also help students learn skills of project design, timeline management, team coordination, professional communication, and cross-organizational collaboration.

Section 005: Measuring & Mapping Soil Lead Contamination in Madison's School Gardens
Francis Eanes
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00a.m.-12:15p.m.

Lead is perhaps one of the most prominent and persistent contaminants found in urban environments all over the world. According to the CDC and countless academic and civil public health organizations, chronic exposure to lead by means of skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation has been shown to have deleterious health, cognitive, and behavioral impacts on human populations, particularly children. One of the main pathways into the body for lead is through garden-related activities in contaminated soils.

Our aim in this course is work with the Madison Metropolitan School District's garden program to assess and reduce children's risk of soil lead exposure. While the actual project goals and methods will be determined by the students in this class, activities will likely include: soil sampling, soil testing, mapping results using geographic information systems (GIS), and developing information resources (flyers, websites, etc.) for disseminating results and providing remediation recommendations.

This class is designed to be driven by the interests, academic experiences, and leadership of all enrolled students, who will work collaboratively and independently to define and achieve all aspects of the project, with guidance and support from the instructor. Students will have available to them any relevant materials (for sampling, testing, mapping, etc.) as well as the expertise of nearby community partners, who include the school district, soil scientists, public health experts, and community gardening organizations. Students of all academic backgrounds will find ways to lend their expertise to the project, though students with interest and experience in any of the following areas will be particularly well-suited for the course: soil science, mapping/cartography (ArcGIS), outreach/education/communication, design (web, graphic).

Section 006: Water Stewardship and Sovereignty in the Bad River Ojibwe Community
Jessie Conaway and Roberta Hill
Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:30-3:45 p.m. (Note: Classroom changed to 175 Science Hall)
Mandatory field trip dates: February 6-8, 2015; and April 24-26, 2015.

Enrollment by instructor permission. Please contact Jessie Conaway at ( if you are interested in taking this capstone.

Meet the original Wisconsin environmentalists: a people who share the name of their place, Anishinaabeg Gitchi Gami -- the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (BRBLSC). This capstone focuses on water stewardship by the BRBLSC of a pristine tributary and internationally renowned wetland within the Lake Superior Basin. Threats to the BRBLSC's water resources include climate change, mineral mining, and invasive species.

The BRBLSC is exemplary in their incorporation of both native and western science to tackle these water issues. Students in this capstone will visit the Bad River reservation to learn first-hand about indigenous environmental philosophy and practice. Integrating ecology, water resource management, environmental health, mapping, and science communications, we will work directly with tribal members on products that will be useful to the BRBLSC as they shape environmental policies that protect their culture and their homeland.

Section 007: 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 ninth 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.