Youth and Education

The Ice Age Trail is an educational trail by nature. The glacial features and multitude of biomes created by the glaciers are natural classrooms all throughout Wisconsin. The Ice Age Trail takes hikers past these environments and truly provides a lifetime of learning.

We believe strongly in sharing this natural story with tomorrow’s leaders as they realize the mental and physical benefits of enjoying a stroll on the Ice Age Trail.

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Our 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. What started as a summer school program in the Lodi School District in 2008, has become a year-round program bringing together over 2,300 students, educators, and community groups across Wisconsin dedicated to getting youth outdoors and enjoying the many benefits of hiking.

While on these adventures, young people take part in a variety of activities connected to the Common Core and/or Wisconsin Model Academic Standards, all while sauntering many miles per day. Engaging youth with nature has a positive and immediate impact on reducing childhood obesity through building familiarity with an inexpensive form of exercise while establishing healthy lifestyles for students on this families. Saunterers benefit from the physical activity of extensive hikes, as they gain confidence and improve their physical and mental well-being.

How We Help

Our staff and volunteers work collaboratively with groups to carry out successful Saunters programs. The program is broken into three main threads:

  1. Day Hikes: a series of outings along the Ice Age Trail that can reach up to 6-10 miles per day. The hikes are offered during the summer school programming for five days, Monday – Friday, or through-out the school year depending on the field experience schedule.
  2. Backpacking: multiple days of 24-hour immersion along the Ice Age Trail that includes hiking, camping and outdoor skills.
  3. Service learning: single or multiple day experiences working side-by-side with volunteers removing invasive species and/or improving trail tread.
Planning

Hikes are scheduled within 1 hour of the starting point and focus on core academic concepts. Most hikes also connect with the Alliance’s ColdCache program. Saunters field experiences are held throughout the year, including summer, and each program is designed to meet the needs of the participating group.

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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 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.

In addition to the Companion Guide for Sauntering, 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.

Service Learning

We strongly believe in providing opportunities for young people to contribute to their communities through volunteerism along the Ice Age Trail. There are many ways for youth groups to volunteer with the Alliance, whether through 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.

Our hard-working volunteers love a helpful hand to care for the Ice Age Trail, but the service part of service learning takes a back seat to the knowledge young people gain through service work on the Trail. Academic concepts vary by the type of work being done. Examples include concepts based on prairie restoration, landscape architecture, safety, event panning and more. We tailor the objectives to meet the needs of participating groups.

Interested in developing a Saunters program in your area?

We are always excited about expanding the Saunters program to get more young people out on the Trail. New programs are added annually. Please contact Amy Lord at [email protected] if you are interested in taking a saunter.

 

Contact

If you’re interested in learning more about Saunters, service learning or other educational opportunities, contact Outreach and  Education Manager, Amy Lord at [email protected] or (608) 798-4453 x233.