Science Exploration Day Connects UW STOUT Campus, Kids to Community

Science Exploration Day Connects UW STOUT Campus, Kids to Community

ABOVE PHOTO: UW-Stout environmental science professors Keith Gilland and Julia Chapman look under logs and rocks for insects and creatures to show the children at Science Exploration Day at the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area. Photo provided by Julie Bates-Maves.

 On a sunny Saturday morning in May, 24 area children became young scientists in hands-on activities led by University of Wisconsin-Stout environmental science faculty and retired area educators at the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area’s annual Science Exploration Day.

The second- to sixth-graders learned about the creatures and habitats of the preserve while exploring with volunteers UW-Stout biology professors Keith Gilland and Julia Chapman and committee members Mark Mosey and Paul Verdon in three 50-minute sessions.

Gilland and Chapman have volunteered at the preserve since 2019, collaborating with community members and UW-Stout students to enhance its habitats.

“The connection we have with the preserve has been really valuable for providing our environmental science students opportunities to do research, gain hands-on experience and develop new skills,” Chapman said.

During the science day, Gilland and Chapman focused on grassland bugs and critters and the ecology of a prairie; Mosey on amphibians and reptiles; and Verdon on rocks and minerals. In turn, they learned about the children’s enthusiasm for their topics as questions and observations poured in.

“Science lends itself to wanting to share it with anyone who is genuinely interested. Children are naturally curious about their surroundings, and I feel obligated to help them better understand their world. Just seeing the interest and knowledge they possess, I have renewed hope for the future,” said Mosey, who taught life science to middle and high school students in Colfax for 33 years.

Verdon taught earth and space science in Menomonie for 33 years and served as environmental education coordinator for a decade.

“I frequently encouraged interested students to consider science as a career,” he said. “It’s so important that the general public has a good understanding of the earth and how it works, so that we can take care of it. With the changes that our environment is facing, it’s more important than ever.”

The Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area offers several events and activities throughout the year. Located roughly one mile north of downtown Colfax on State Road 170, it comprises more than 150 acres, with access to the Red Cedar River. The 12-acre Ferry Pond is popular for fishing and motorless boating, and a walking path takes hikers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers through wooded and prairie areas.

UW-Stout clinical mental health counseling Professor Julie Bates-Maves often visits the preserve with her family and attended the science day with her children.

“It’s a beautiful place to explore. Having Stout partner to provide programming at no cost for local children is even better. This event was so much fun. I’m so thankful for the time that Stout professors put in alongside other local educators. It’s a fantastic free resource for our region.”


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