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Our Wisconsin charter school uses scientific research and project-based learning as the focus of our curriculum. Project learning is based on a constructivist model of learning that engages you in real-world scholarly activity because you get to chose topics that interest you.
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Wildlands Mobile 2.0

Posted on November 26, 2013 by Paul T.

There was a time when a big white bus sat next to the Wildlands garage.  This bus wasn't anything extravagant, but it was always ready to go on field trips, river trips, camping, and used to shuttle students to local activities.  Then, after close to 10 years of (fairly) faithful service, the beloved white bus had to be put out to pasture.  Last year we had to take the bus to the recycler and the only things we kept from the old mobile lab were the memories.  We were able to replace it with a newer yellow school bus, do a little remodeling, and have another Wildlands bus.  The white bus was remodeled using two grants, thousands of dollars, and took a whole semester to finish back in 2001, while the new yellow bus was remodeled without any grant funds and finished in a couple weeks by Wildlands students.  Consequently, this current bus doesn't have the same features or degree of remodeling, but it does the job just fine.  However, it is a bus.

Keeping Wildlands students on the road and traveling to all the unique and wonderful destinations has been a rewarding challenge.  The list of destinations and reasons for traveling is long and varied.  From canoeing the Flambeau or Brule rivers, hiking in the Kettle Moraine, mountain biking Levis Mound, to visiting the nursing home, shoveling snow for senior citizens, or volunteering at the community table, our students move around much more than most.  In many cases we need to bring along a support vehicle (sometimes called the chase vehicle) to make sure we can get off the river,  to shuttle a student in case of illness, or deal with a bus breakdown.  Having that chase vehicle is essential to both the function and safety of our "traveling school."   For the school to continue to be "mobile" we are setting a new goal of "mobile v2.0."  We have never had a dedicated vehicle for the chase or support function, thus the development of mobile version 2.

The staff and students have set a goal to find and purchase (or to have donated) two vehicles that will help us meet the needs of our traveling school.  We are targeting two types of vehicles for different purposes, a passenger truck, and a mini-van.

First, we need a chase and support vehicle that can pull a heavy trailer, have at least 6 seats for students, and room for gear in the back.   Our bike trailer is a double axle heavy-duty trailer with electric brakes and requires at least a half-ton truck to pull.  We also regularly pull canoe trailers, and in many cases need roof rack ability for watercraft.  The ideal vehicle for this purpose would be something like a Chevy Suburban or Ford Excursion passenger truck. To date we have raised $2,150 for this project and expect to see this goal reached before the end of the calendar year.

The second vehicle will help us in a host of other ways. Quite often we have a group of students heading out to a trip and we take the bus.  This fall is a great example.  We had 8 students on a backcountry canoe trip on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage, and 2 weeks later 12 students went on a 3 night backpacking trip in the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine.  These trips are the cornerstones of Wildlands outdoor recreation, life long fitness, and natural world exploration programs.  For students to truly learn to understand how the natural world works, develop an appreciation for it, and learn to value it, they need to experience it first hand.  However, on trips like these two, we ran a 70 plus passenger bus to transport the students and use personal vehicles for support. Having both a passenger truck and mini-van would have replaced bus use on these and many other trips.

Once we realize the goal of the heavy-duty passenger truck, we are targeting the mini-van.  The mini-van could transport 6 students for many different purposes.  We travel to college visits, local field trips, student symposiums, and local businesses quite often.  Students will arrange visits to professional offices and industries for small project groups as well.  Our community service program could also use this for the many service and volunteer opportunities students complete throughout the year.  For the past 9 years we have also had an "8th hour" bus route to make sure students in band, choir, and other electives can take those classes in Augusta. More than half of those 8th hour trips could use a mini-van instead of a full size school bus.  This alone could save us a great deal in fuel.  Anytime we take a group of 12 or less students we could use the passenger truck and a mini-van, thus having a support vehicle along, lower fuel costs, and more flexibility compared to using a full size school bus.

Wildlands Mobile v2.0 is a goal set forth by our students, staff, and school community, to be more active, get out in the community more, increase our outdoor learning team building adventure program, reduce fuel costs for daily transportation, and meet the needs of student projects that require local travel.  We are currently accepting monetary donations for this project, with the overall goal of between $15,000 and $20,000.  We are also working on several avenues that could lead to reduced cost vehicles or even a donation.  If you are interested in helping our students move into the "Mobile v2.0" phase of Wildlands please consider a donation.

-Paul T. Teacher

 

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