Awarded for Outstanding Programming by the Wisconsin Area Council

It’s generally accepted that today’s children will be the Mars Generation. They will become the explorers who will travel to and establish the first settlements on our planetary neighbor, Mars. We know very little of this planet, so imagine yourself as an early explorer out for a jog on this barren rockscape and tripping over what appears to be a twisted elephant tusk… How would such a discovery change our understanding of the red planet, our solar system and what we know about life? What steps would come next and what questions would need to be asked?

Field exploration with Dr. Meinhardt
On a field exploration with Dr. Meinhardt

To get an idea, we teamed up with Dr. Dan Meinhardt, Professor of Human Biology and curator of the Richter Museum of Natural History at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay to immerse the children in foreign environments and teach them some primary skills to begin understanding the surrounding environment.

We came to understand some of the processes that created the dunes and rocky cliffs at Cave Point and Whitefish Dunes on the western shore of Lake Michigan. We explored a waterfall miles from the shoreline and discovered the water there was flowing over the very same rock formation that makes up the cliffs at Cave Point and that these rocks were also the same rock that Niagara Falls flows over nearly 800 miles away in upstate New York. We explored rivers, grasslands, a former rock quarry, a forest, a marsh and the shoreline of the Bay of Green Bay. Each environment we explored had a unique and diverse ecosystem. We were left asking more questions each time we visited a new place, which leave open the possibility to return to learn more.

Along the way, the youth also discovered the undeniable impression left by human presence in the environment in the form of trash and discarded items. They collectively decided to clean up the environments we visited and so we packed trash bags along with our snacks and water on every trip. We were pleased to see less trash in our later excursions, but we still did what we could to preserve every place we visited.