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UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield Hall 218
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
Wisconsin Geographic Alliance Gets Grant for Program
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MAILED: May 19, 1998

EAU CLAIRE -- Twenty-five Wisconsin teachers will have a better understanding of the state's paper industry thanks to a summer program sponsored by the Wisconsin Geographic Alliance.

The Alliance - housed at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire - will offer a four-day institute this summer teaching educators about the paper industry as a whole. Topics will range from the growth of trees to cutting trees to making trees into paper to problems such as pollution that result from the paper making process.
"It's a complete look at the industry - ranging from seedlings to the final product," said Richard Palm, coordinator of the Alliance and associate professor of geography at UW-Eau Claire. "Participants will visit a number of sites, they'll see a lumber harvesting operation, they'll see paper plants on the eastern side of the state and talk with DNR and university people about problems associated with the industry."
The goal is to better educate teachers about the paper industry - knowledge they can then incorporate into their school's curriculum, Palm said, noting that the special institute session is possible because of a $7,300 grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board. All the teachers participating in the four-day institute have already completed the Alliance's annual two-week summer geography institute, Palm said.
The two-week institute, now in its eighth year, is run the last two weeks of June each summer. Some 30 to 35 teachers have participated each year since it started in 1990, Palm said.
"It's designed to teach teachers how to teach geography in a way that's exciting," Palm said. "We want there to be good geography education but have it still be fun for the students."
Evaluations and comments from participants have indicated that the teachers do find the experience valuable, Palm said. "We keep hearing that this is the best educational experience many of these teachers have ever had," he said. "What's really nice is that it's a very successful project not only for the teachers attending but also because, as part of the program, they are required to in-service other teachers in their home districts, in effect further spreading the impact of the institute."
Teachers from kindergarten through 12th grades participate in the Alliance institute as a group, Palm said. "It's an unusual approach because we don't group teachers by grade levels," he said. "We believe high school and elementary teachers can learn from each other."
While the WIGA is housed at UW-Eau Claire, it is a statewide effort, Palm said, noting that teachers from Washington Island, Janesville and Weyerhaeuser are among those registered for the 1998 session. The emphasis is on giving teachers ideas and materials that they can use in their classrooms to enhance geography instruction, he said, adding that he has institute graduates throughout the state share what they've learned through in-services and workshops in their regions. The program is emphasizes hands-on classroom activities. Teaching experts follow lectures by professional geographers with small group activities to help the teachers understand how they could use the information they just received in classrooms, he said.
"We tell the teachers at the beginning of the institute that when they leave they will never look at the world in the same way and never teach the same again," Palm said. "Without exception, the teachers leave here telling us that we were right."
"I don't think I see a building or pass a land form without wondering how it got there? Why is it there? How many feet have passed it?" said Kathy Morley, chair of the social studies department at DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire and a 1996 Institute participant. "The above questions are the types of thoughts and visions I bring to my classroom. I try to get the students to approach new cultures, society's problems, concerns about the environment or community issues with a more critical eye, a new awareness and a questioning mind."
The State of Wisconsin has provided the WIGA with $40,000 or $50,000 each year it has been in existence. The National Geographic Society then matches those amounts dollar-for-dollar, Palm said.
"So we've gotten almost $800,000 since 1989," Palm said, adding that every state plus Puerto Rico and Canada have their own alliances. "The institute is really our flagship program but we do one-day workshops and in-services of several hours throughout the year."


UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: May 19, 1998