|Story & photos by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
Fort McCoy allowed environmental and natural resources staff members to
share their knowledge and on-the-job experience with teachers from nine
area school districts at a July 20-21 workshop here.
Mark McCarty, chief of the Fort McCoy Natural Resources Branch, said
the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program
workshop provides innovative instructional programs, supports students
who typically are underrepresented in STEM areas of studies and
increases the academic achievement of students in these subjects. The
program grant was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and was
administered through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Stephen Wagner, the post
archaeologist with the Fort McCoy Natural Resources Branch,
explains methods used in archaeological surveys to teachers
during a science, technology, engineering and mathematics
By strengthening ties between the school districts involved and Fort
McCoy, the program supports the principles of the Army Community
Covenant, McCarty said.
“The program helps teachers prepare students to fill future roles in
these fields by showing them real-life examples,” McCarty said. “It also
can lay the foundation to help prepare students for success in their
future academic work or career fields of choice by teaching them
research discipline and the payoff for doing detailed work.”
Fort McCoy professionals provided information in a round-robin format
with 10 different stations.
Teachers spent approximately 45 minutes at each station, where they
listened to a brief presentation, saw a practical demonstration and did
Teachers learned about fisheries, lake and stream water quality,
orienteering and Global Positioning System (GPS), cultural resources,
invasive species, threatened and endangered species, forestry, wildlife,
and drinking water programs at Fort McCoy, McCarty said.
The invasive species training included use of GPS equipment to log
survey plots and map invasive species populations. This could bring
up-to-date technology instruction to the classrooms, he said.
Dr. Jerrilyn Brewer, the grant developer for the Sparta Area School
District and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton Schools, said the district pursued
the Math-Science Partnership Grant for the professional development
opportunities it provided teachers. Sixty teachers were chosen to attend
the training under the grant. School districts represented were Sparta,
Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton, Bangor, Black River Falls, Cashton, La Farge,
Mauston, Melrose-Mindoro and Royall.
“A unique aspect of our grant is the involvement of the business and
government sectors in the teachers’ professional development,” Brewer
said. “Teachers will improve their ability to understand both
mathematics and science content and will, in turn, teach these subjects
more effectively to students. Students will understand and be able to
apply the concepts at a higher level, thereby increasing their ability
to see the relevance of math and science in the ‘real world.’”
“By having our teachers experience math and science in a hands-on
setting, they can share and/or replicate many of their experiences with
their students. A primary goal of this grant is to get youth hooked on
mathematics and science.”
Brad Betthauser of the Fort
McCoy Fisheries program demonstrates to a group of area teachers
how stream shocking for fish sampling is done.
During this summer’s field work, the teachers visited an organic farm
and a local winery. Brewer said the teachers also will participate in a
minimum of 100 hours of professional development per year for the next
three years. The culminating event each summer is a two-week summer
Next year, the teachers will focus on the career clusters of
manufacturing, transportation and logistics. If both sides are willing,
Brewer said they again hoped to partner with Fort McCoy.
Cynthia Hearn Dorfman from the U.S. Department of Education visited the
program. She is responsible for developing and implementing the Office’s
Organizational Assessment, which measures the overall effectiveness of
the office of communication outreach to provide actual work experience
to teachers in this case in the math and science areas.
The work this year should strengthen the ties between the school
districts involved and the Fort McCoy environmental program, and help
support the Army Community Covenant, Brewer said.
“We believe it is very important for teachers to understand the
far-reaching environmental work that is being done at Fort McCoy,” she
said. “We think this can be a win-win situation for everyone, but
especially Fort McCoy. Raising the public’s awareness about the good
work that is being done in our own backyard is a good thing. Fort McCoy
can serve as an important role model for environmental education and
Jeane Frank, a second-grade teacher in the Sparta Area School District,
said she gleaned a lot of good ideas to teach younger children about
Fort McCoy environmental professionals had many tips about how to
conduct experiments in the classroom.
One example was a cultural resources demonstration where post
Archaeologist Stephen Wagner showed how to create a simulated
archaeological research area by using old papers or coins. Students
would dig into these research areas and learn the older items would be
in the lower layers and the newer items would be in the upper layers,
closer to the surface.
John Noble, fisheries biologist, showed how they could use a tape
measure, an apple and a stop-watch or a watch to get approximate
“If you’re outside, something can go wrong with equipment,” Noble said.
“If you have a backup plan, you can still get useful data.”
Bruce Brewer, a middle school teacher (sixth to eighth grades) in the
Bangor Area School District, said it was good to learn real-world
applications of the subjects and information taught in the classroom.
Students could read about the information in a text book, he said. “But
if we tell them this is how the information is used in a profession,
they’re more likely to pay attention and to learn it,” he said.
McCarty said the exchange of ideas helps build support for the
installation’s programs and missions and supports the Army Community
Covenant by sharing information with the community and fostering better
relations between the post’s environmental professionals and the
educational professionals in area communities.
Teachers may be able to develop instruction from the workshop at Fort
McCoy that would support local, state or federal environmental programs,
McCarty said. For example, the curriculum may support efforts of the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and/or local Lake Associations
to collect data for and contribute biological and water-quality
Water-quality monitoring or lake limnological studies could become
standing operating practices/procedure for school curriculum and provide
a cost-beneficial endeavor for the agency or lake association.