Marathon Venture Academy

Marathon Venture Academy

Marathon Venture Academy is an expeditionary learning middle school in Marathon City, Wisconsin. Marathon Venture Academy engages students in 12-week interdisciplinary expeditions that include field work, interaction with experts, and authentic final products. Gikinoo’wizhiwe Onji Waaban (Guiding for Tomorrow, or G-WOW) is a service learning curriculum that integrates place-based evidence of climate change with science and promotes action.

Project Description: 

In our Culture of Climate Change expedition, Marathon Venture Academy (MVA) students studied the connection between culture and climate change. They explored the impact of climate change at the local, national and global levels through field work. They also had conversations with global climate experts about the science behind climate change, and recorded local observations related to changes in climate. During science investigations, they examined Wisconsin climate data and climate projections as they learned about greenhouse gasses and the greenhouse effect. Then they discussed why culture is important to people and made connections between climate and culture during both social studies and reading classes. All this work came together during writing class, when they applied their climate knowledge to a hobby, tradition, or activity they enjoy participating in and made a claim about whether or not climate change would impact their culture [hobby, tradition, or activity] over the next 30 years. These MVA students showcased their final products, My Climate Story documentaries, at a celebration of learning held in several UW-Marathon County classrooms, while other examples of student work were displayed in the hallways of the Center for Civic Engagement the night of our Celebration of Learning.


The goal of the expedition was to build background knowledge on the science of climate change and explore how the effects of climate change are impacting local cultures and customs. Students also learned how they could lower their own carbon footprint. The curriculum had a number of Guiding Questions that directed student learning, such as these:

  • What is climate?
  • How does climate change impact the environment?
  • How does climate influence the lives of people?
  • What is the importance of culture?

MVA staff used the Connect Tools in many ways during the expedition. The Culture & Climate Collages were used both as kick-off activities and projects in classroom case studies; the technology teacher used the “I can change the climate” poster template as a project; and the final products were the My Climate Story documentaries—a spin-off of the Connect Video Stories.

Read more about the Marathon Venture Academy approach here.

Tools in Action: 

Visual Collages

During the kick-off to the Culture of Climate Change expedition, students viewed Culture & Climate Collages related to Ojibwe traditions. Students were asked to record observations and questions about each collage. The purpose of this activity was to spark student curiosity and engage them in the topic of the expedition.

Climate Witness Haiku and Photo Collage

Students analyzed a climate witness story from around the world. The texts were student selected from, which focuses on protecting the future of nature. After selecting a text, the students analyzed the author’s story to determine how the climate is changing and impacts of climate change. The students traced the main idea throughout the text. After analyzing the text, students compared a scientific review to the climate witness story in order to establish text credibility. Students created a photo collage and haiku to visually represent their story.

Climate Action Posters

Students were asked to create a poster on what they, a middle school student, can do to help change climate in a positive manner in our community. They began by reflecting on what they learned in both the science and writing classes, after which they researched ideas and found an appropriate quote, from a reliable source, to support their idea. Students put all this together, along with a picture of themselves participating in their activity, onto their well-designed posters.

Climate Change Documentaries

Student work came together during writing class, when the students applied their climate knowledge to a hobby, tradition, or activity they enjoy participating in and made a claim about whether or not climate change would impact their culture [hobby, tradition, or activity] over the next 30 years. MVA then created My Climate Story documentaries.

Organizations and People Involved: 

Marathon Venture Academy, Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, the G-WOW team, University of Wisconsin Extension Program, Apostle Islands-National Park Service, Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center