Category Archives: Educational Programs

Eco-Justice Center

Programs in Environmental Education for Children and Youth

The Eco-Justice Center was founded by the Racine Dominican Sisters as a place to model how to live sustainably and take care of Earth. The 15-acre property on Michna Road in Caledonia was purchased in 2004. The sisters wanted to teach justice for the environment and to encourage people, particularly young people, to be more conscious about caring for the earth. They live by and teach the eight R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reverence, Respect, Responsibility, Rethink, and Repair, as well as the four C’s; Creativity, Cultivation, Contemplation, and Community. The Eco-Justice Center has solar panels, a wind turbine, and geothermal heating/ cooling to help with the conservation of natural resources and energy costs. They offer numerous hands-on activities to teach children such as caring for animals and growing your own food. All the buildings and structures on the property were constructed in a sustainable way, such as reusing old building materials.

Healthy Eating Field Trip. Starting this fall, all first grade students in the Racine Unified School District will participate in a field trip either to the Eco-Justice Center or to Hawthorn Hollow in order to learn about growing healthy foods. The children will get to experience eating new foods and being on a farm. This fits in with the school’s Healthy Food Curriculum called the “Body Shop,” which is all about food and nutrition. Last fall, third graders from six inner city schools that were located near “food deserts” got to attend “Eating Healthy/Healthy Living” field trips; these trips were funded by grants from SC Johnson, Inc. and the Racine Community Foundation.
Racine Area Youth Farm Corps. Currently in its second year, the Racine Area Youth Farm Corps is modeled after a similar program in Grayslake, Illinois. Four high school students, one college intern and a program director are hired for the summer. The goal is to immerse themselves in various job skills for the future. They focus on farming vegetables, taking care of them until it is time to harvest, and then selling the produce at farmers’ markets. They also learn about the nutritional aspects of the food they grow and how to prepare meals using the herbs and veggies they have grown. They become advocates for healthy eating and community gardens, and they become model employees. Last year, the Youth Farm Corps was funded by the Racine Community Foundation and United Natural Foods Inc.
Summer Camps for children and youth. The Eco-Justice Center has four weeks of summer camps for children ages 6-10 and youth ages 11-14. The children learn about ecology and get the opportunity to interact with the farm animals, learn home-making skills such as making bread and butter, how to harvest their own salad, collect eggs from the hens, and celebrate local food. The older youth group gets to sleep over and even make pizza in an outdoor brick oven! Funds from the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation provide full scholarships for some inner city children and youth to attend the summer camps.

Racine Zoo’s Wildlife Explorers

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The Racine Zoo’s Wildlife Explorers program brings every third grade student in the Racine Unified School District to the Racine Zoo every year.  Concepts taught in the class, such as predator-prey relationships and what makes a habitat, are closely aligned not only to state standards, but to the RUSD third grade curriculum. Originally developed to address traditionally weak content areas tested in the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE), the Wildlife Explorers program has a proven track record of success. Students also work together to create their own animal exhibit, practicing teamwork while learning about potential careers. The impact of this program is unmistakable—a Wildlife Explorer from a decade ago has returned to the Racine Zoo and is now one of the educators delivering this program.

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​Caption: During Wildlife Explorer Classes, third grade students are able to see and touch live animals, including this Desert Tortoise.


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The Racine Zoo also offers a variety of classes to any school group that is interested. These programs include four animals and are aligned to state standards, and can occur either at the zoo as part of a field trip or in your classroom. For more information about our programs or to book a program, visit the Racine Zoo website at https://www.racinezoo.org/school-group-prog or contact our school programs manager Aszya Summers at asummers@racinezoo.org.

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​Caption: Applying vocabulary learned in class to physically present animals, such as this Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula, actively engages students in  learning.


If you are interested in sparking a child’s love of nature at the Racine Zoo, our zoo has a wide variety of other programs, including slumber safaris, summer camps, scouting programs, and more! Visit us at racinezoo.org or email us at education@racinezoo.org to get started!

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​​Caption: Live animal programs can take place at the zoo, or we can bring our animals into your classroom.

Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC)

The Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC) opened in 2008 as a partnership between The University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the City of Racine. Activities at the REC are coordinated by the College of Natural and Health Sciences at UW-Parkside. The REC is open for public kayak and canoe rentals on Saturdays and Sundays from June until the end of September. The REC hosts environmental education workshops, termed the Root River Voyagers, for children on Saturday mornings with topics including canoeing, river animals, and water quality. The REC has partnerships with several local organizations including the Root River Council, 21st Century Preparatory School, and Racine Unified School District’s WATERshed program. The REC is an “urban ecology center” as it connects people within the City of Racine to nature and wildlife.

Caledonia Conservancy

The Caledonia Conservancy consists of 260 acres of land that is accredited by the Land Trust Alliance. There are walking trails as well as horse riding trails that are open to the public from dawn until dusk. The Conservancy also provides educational opportunities for both children and adults.  https://www.caledoniaconservancy.org/​ 

School-to-Nature Program
The Caledonia Conservancy’s School-to-Nature Program aims to get students outside in nature and show them all that nature has to offer. In the Fall, fourth graders visit the Trout Ponds and Prairie (located at 4891 4 Mile Rd) for the Program “The Four Habitats; Pond, River, Prairie & Woods”. In the Spring, sixth graders visit Tabor Woods (located at 5131 Tabor Woods Rd.) for the program “Life in a Fallen Log”. The students go out in small groups with a volunteer guide on the walking trails and along the way stop and look at and learn about various trees, plants, and animals. They follow a worksheet to fill out along the way. They also bring magnifying glasses and other tools to explore ecosystems around fallen logs. This field trip is run by volunteers and a committee who plans and coordinates the activities. The field trip is funded by individual donations as well as grants. The students had a lot of fun spending time out in nature!

 

Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps

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The Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (Great Lakes CCC) trains and educates youth (ages 18-25) by leveraging resources among Great Lakes communities. Corps members gain credentials that close the skills gap, improve water quality, build habitat, grow the legacy of the original Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and make the region more competitive in the global economy. They are always looking for newcomers to join.
​Contact Chris Litzau for more information: investinyouth@wi.rr.com