Courses and educational uses of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve
The Lakeshore Nature Preserve places education—both for students and
for members of the larger public—at the absolute center of its
mission. Our mission statement declares
that "the Preserve is as essential to the university as its lecture
halls, laboratories, and playing fields." Few universities in the world
have such a rich and varied natural preserve so close to their central
Here are just a few examples of the many ways in which formal and informal
teaching and learning happening within its boundaries every year:
with the UW-Madison Curriculum
There are many university programs that use the Preserve as an important
part of their curricula, treating it as an extension of the classroom
and research laboratory. Courses in many departments—Botany, Forestry,
Geography, Landscape Architecture, Limnology, Zoology, the Nelson Institute
for Environmental Studies, and others—use the Lakeshore Nature Preserve
to study a wide variety of plant and animal communities. No natural
area is closer to campus, or more fully integrated into the UW-Madison
As described on the Biocore website, “Students and staff from Biocore's
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics courses are restoring an old field
near Picnic Point to tall grass prairie and monitoring its progress.
Each new class of students is learning ecological principles and methods
by contributing to multi-year research projects at the Biocore site.” This
prairie can serve as a model for other restorations in the Preserve,
and the use of fire in its management can be extended to other Preserve
ecosystems that will also benefit from controlled burns.
See video clips of instructors describing how they teach with the Preserve
F.H. King Gardens
F.H. King Students of Sustainable Agriculture is a UW-Madison organization
dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture. It operates a garden
plot situated north and west of the Eagle Heights Community Gardens
. The garden contains fruits, vegetables, flowers, rotation crops, a
composting area, and a small meeting/gathering space.
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) operates research
plots in the field north of the Eagle Heights Community Gardens and
the F.H. King Gardens .
The soil pits, located in Bill's Woods, are part of the Soil Science,
Geography, and Geology curricula. In particular, introductory physical
geography lab courses use these areas to demonstrate various soil horizons
and soil types as a supplement to classroom and laboratory activities.
and Anthropology Kilns
These kilns are located at the south end of the old orchard field.
The art kilns are used by students and faculty to study traditional
wood-fired methods of firing and glazing ceramics. The Anthropology
department uses another kiln at this site to fire ceramics which are
then buried in an adjacent soil pit for subsequent excavation and analysis.
See video clips of students describing how the Preserve brings a new dimension to their work
Class of 1918 Marsh Studies
The Class of 1918 Marsh serves students and faculty in the Biocore,
Landscape Architecture, and other departments as an example of a restored
wetland. It is also an important birding area.
See video clips of instructors describing how they teach with the Class of 1918 Marsh
Naval ROTC uses Picnic Point and its trail connections for training
runs and navigation exercises. Army ROTC uses the Preserve for infrequent
off-trail navigation exercises in the shrubby understory of Picnic Point
Base and Frautschi Point. ROTC students also make significant contributions
to restoration work in the Preserve as community service projects.
Muir Woods has been used by students at Chadbourne Residential College
to do environmental community service work with Madison area schoolchildren
led by a Land Resources graduate student.
Because the long snaking corridor of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve is
never very distant from any location on campus, virtually every part of
it gets used for ad hoc educational exercises, especially those designed
to get students out into the field to identify plants, study soils, observe
wildlife, or think about human relationships with nature. Courses regularly
do ecological field work in all corners of the Preserve, ranging from
Muir Woods to Frautschi Point and beyond.
Other educational benefits
Finally, it is worth noting that many UW-Madison courses whose curricula
may not seem to be directly related to the physical resources of the Preserve
significantly benefit from its amenities. For instance, English 100 classes,
Geography 120, sections of introductory courses in the Nelson Institute,
and environmental history discussion sections of History/Geography/ Environmental
Studies 460 each year make use of the Preserve at one time or another.
Community Educational Outreach Opportunities
Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve organization sponsors many field
trips and group activities designed to educate members of the general
public about various aspects of the Preserve, including:
• Spring Ephemerals Walk:
Conducted when spring wildflowers are at their peak, this trip uses
the Preserve trail system to visit concentrations of blooming flowers,
and also introduces participants to various ecological restoration projects.
• Bird Walks:
Birding opportunities abound throughout the Preserve. Guided trips
by members of the Madison Audubon Society and the Friends of the Lakeshore
Nature Preserve teach visitors how to identify songbirds while also
learning the migratory patterns of bird species that frequent the Preserve.
• Other Guided Walks:
The Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve have also sponsored many
other walking tours designed to introduce visitors to Native American
burial mounds, geology, trees, butterflies, mammals, general ecology,
and human history.
Author: Preserve Master Plan, original Cronon draft expanded and revised
by Bill Cronon Version 1a, 11/6/06