Photo Credit: Emily Meier
The Saunters program aims to honor Henry David Thoreau’s statement – “It is a great art to saunter” – while infusing core educational concepts into trips on the Ice Age Trail.
Join us on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail – one of Wisconsin’s premier outdoor classrooms.
- A collaboration between the Alliance, school districts, and community groups.
- A proven, curriculum-based program, begun in 2008, that gets more than 2,300 participants out into nature on a yearly basis.
- Enhances students’ knowledge-building in one of nature’s most fascinating, hand-on, learning environments while deepening their understanding of the forces that created Wisconsin’s unique landscape.
- Integrates multiple facets of Wisconsin’s Common Core curriculum and/or Wisconsin Model Academic Standards into a unique field experience designed to excite young minds.
- Gives students the opportunity to rub shoulders with world-renowned glacial features in a way that brings the pages of their textbooks (or tablets) to life.
- Stretches legs and minds as students take a break from screen time, breathe fresh air, and absorb a new perspective.
- Reduces childhood obesity through building familiarity with an inexpensive form of exercise while encouraging healthy lifestyles for students and their families.
“It’s a privilege to spend unplugged, outdoor time with these kids, a generation growing up with smartphones, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. We take time to Geocache, find ColdCaches, explore historical sites, and investigate whatever is of interest to the students in that moment: a toad, an erratic, or a snake. And then there is the climbing. Many students are fearless climbers of rocks, trees, and whatever else seems inviting.”
~ Brian Bednarek, middle school teacher and outdoor enthusiast
Ways to Saunter
Saunters is tailored to meet the needs of teachers, school districts, and community centers and their staff.
One-day field experiences for fourth grade students designed to dovetail directly with classroom learning. Prior to an introductory hike on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance staff, or expert volunteer, provides a free classroom presentation. It includes an overview of last Ice Age, the geologic features the glaciers left behind that shaped Wisconsin’s terrain, and how hiking the Ice Age National Scenic Trail unveils and brings this story to life.
Ideal for summer school, Day Hikes are a series of outings along the Ice Age Trail that can reach up to 6-10 miles of walking per day. Teachers have successfully offered this experience as a week-long endeavor, Monday – Friday.
In some cases, teachers have arranged Day Hikes as part of their classroom outings during the course of the regular school year. Day Hikes can be tailored to suit a variety of teaching styles, curriculum needs, and age groups.
These multiple days of 24-hour immersion along the Ice Age Trail are ideal for summer school. They include hiking distances of up to 10-miles a day, overnight camping, and an introduction to useful outdoor skills. This experience is known for building confidence and resilience in the students who participate in it. The school districts of Frederic and Luck have developed a program of robust and popular summer backpacking excursions.
These single or multiple day experiences include working side-by-side with volunteers removing invasive species and/or improving trail tread.
Our hard-working volunteers love a helpful hand to care for the Ice Age Trail. Happily, the service part of service learning takes a back seat to the knowledge young people gain through their work on the Trail. Academic concepts vary by the type of work being done. Examples include: prairie restoration, landscape architecture, safety, event planning and more. We tailor the objectives to meet the needs of participating groups.
Several ways for youth groups to volunteer with the Alliance include working with a local volunteer chapter, joining a Mobile Skills Crew event, or working with our staff to tailor an event that meets your community’s needs.
How We Help You Saunter
Our staff and volunteers work collaboratively with teachers, school districts, and community centers and their staff to establish successful Saunters programs.
Planning and Preparation
Each spring, Outreach and Education Manager, Amy Lord, hosts an Educator’s Summit where teachers gather to share ideas, determine which of the four Saunters options best suits their students and school districts, and plan hikes and activities.
Alliance staff assists the teachers in determining the best locations for hikes based on their school’s proximity to a particular Trail segment, and offers maps and guidebooks as additional resources.
Saunters is funded through generous grants from a variety of organizations. This funding allows the Alliance to pay for the cost of transporting kids to and from the Trail.
In addition to the resources offered below, Ice Age Trail Alliance staff and volunteers provide classroom presentations prior to Saunters field trip to educate students about the Ice Age Trail and its geology, the mission and vision of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, and what to expect and how to prepare for a hiking experience.
Most hikes also connect with the Alliance’s ColdCache program which is an exciting way to explore and learn about the many natural features along the Ice Age Trail.
If you are looking for a classroom-friendly activity that allows your students to experience the thrill of a treasure hunt, learn important navigational skills and develop an appreciation for Wisconsin’s fascinating Ice Age history, ColdCaching is for you!
You can download the Companion Guide for Sauntering – an Ice Age Trail journal [PDF] for students and children to use as they explore the Ice Age Trail.
A collaboration of Alliance staff, Saunters teachers and volunteers developed the guide, which covers core concepts related to the natural environment and includes activities students can complete on the Trail.
All activities are connected to the Common Core and/or Wisconsin Model Academic Standards. A guide for hike leaders that details the connections to Common Core and Wisconsin Model Academic Standards is also available.
The following downloadable PDF playsheets were created by Education Outfitters as a result of generous funding for a grant project known as “From the Inside Out”.
Playsheet appropriate for the following age groups:
“It is about making stronger people, by gracefully pushing them beyond what they perceive as their limits, and helping them overcome fears. It is about helping Saunterers to slow down, to spend a few moments savoring and absorbing life before plotting the next move.”
~Luke Kloberdanz, Director of Philanthropy
More About the Art of Sauntering
Musings from Alliance staff, interns, and Saunters teachers.
What is the Point of This?
By Luke Kloberdanz (former Outreach and Education Director, now Director of Philanthropy)
One of my favorite questions from a recent Sauntering experience is, “What is the point of this?” Spoken by a 3rd grader, with bright red cheeks and too heavy pack, as the group walked through the lightly glaciated hills of Dane County.
The Making of a Thousand-Miler
By Brian Bednarek, teacher at the Montessori School of Waukesha
Do your kids ask to go hiking? Fortunately, mine do. I’m a middle school teacher, outdoor enthusiast, and member of the mowing crew of the Waukesha/Milwaukee Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. For the past five years, I’ve been leading hikes on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail for my summer school students from the Montessori School of Waukesha. Based on the records I keep of each day’s hikes, my students have covered 2,367 total Trail miles over the last five years.
"Taylor" Made Hike on the Ice Age Trail in Taylor County
By Taylor Houghton, 2018 Intern for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Never have I been without running water, civilization, or a car full of supplies. Instead of a modest two-mile hike, I’d be hiking 14 miles. Instead of sleeping in a cozy bed, I’d be carrying it on my back! As an intern for the Alliance’s Outreach and Education Program, I would be joining the Frederic School District’s Summer Saunters Backpacking trip led by teacher Carrie Peterson.
Interested? Contact Us!
Are you interested in learning more about Saunters, Think Outside, Day Hikes, or Service Learning or other educational opportunities?
If so, please contact Outreach and Education Manager, Amy Lord at [email protected] or (608) 798-4453 x233.