Marathon Venture Academy Approach

class with ranger

Marathon Venture Academy (MVA) is an Expeditionary Learning middle school located in Marathon City, Wisconsin. As an Expeditionary Learning school, MVA strives to engage students in learning through interdisciplinary expeditions that focus on a specific theme. Marathon Venture Academy’s fall expedition in 2015 was Culture of Climate Change. During this expedition, students participated in place-based learning about climate change that resulted in the creation of climate-related projects that built into a comprehensive climate-focused final product. Projects and products created by students were displayed at the Marathon Venture Academy Celebration of Learning, which  took place at the culmination of the expedition. Families, students, staff, and the community were invited to view student work at the celebration.

Culture of Climate Change Expedition Overview

Guiding Questions

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

Kick-off: Mystery Walk-Climate Rotations-Students view different images, graphs, videos, data-sets, etc. related to climate change.

Fieldwork: Coastal Climate Camp at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center (overnight)

Experts: Neil Howk, Assistant Chief of Interpretation and Education, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Bob Krumenaker, Superintendent, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Michael Joyner, Invasive Species Interpreter, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Sue, Park Ranger, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Damon Panek, Park Ranger, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Cathy Techtmann, Environmental Outreach Specialist, UW-Extension
Janet Moore, Wheels of Time and Place Nature Journals

Case Studies (Individual units of study in respective classes)

Case Study #1
Social Studies 
- Geography of Climate Change
Science - Global Climate Change
Reading - Word Study (Root Words and Ojibwe Language) North American Myths & Stories
Writing - Identifying personal traditions related to climate

Case Study #2
Social Studies 
- The Ojibwe Culture
Science - Local Climate Change
Reading - Impact of Climate Change on Cultures
Writing - Argument: Will my personal tradition be impacted by climate change?

Case Study #3
Social Studies 
- Climate Change Policy (Adaptation versus Mitigation)
Science - Weather
Reading - Book Clubs (Diversity)
Writing - My Climate Story (Community Asset)
Computer Applications - Poster Creation


Social Studies – Thinklink Climate Regions
Interactive iPad tool students create to help others understand climate regions/change
Science – Phenology journals and climate research note-catcher
Reading – Culture and cllimate collages
Writing – Personal narratives on tradition linked to climate. Argument on impact of climate change on personal narrative tradition.
Computer Applications – ”I can change the climate” posters
Final Product – Climate change documentaries
Celebration of Learning – Thursday, November 19, 2015 (guest speaker, story viewing, projects display)

MVA students identified an “asset” to personalize their exploration of climate change and about which to create a final product, My Climate Story. The final product was each student's personal documentary of a climate-related tradition and the potential impacts climate change may impose on that tradition. Students identified their asset, or cultural tradition, early in the expedition during the writing class. Using the G-WOW Ojibwe Lifeways curriculum as an example, students explored what is necessary (climate-wise) to participate in their cultural tradition, then wrote a personal narrative, or story, about their tradition and its link to climate. They also evaluated traditional ecological knowledge about their tradition’s link to climate and made a prediction about whether or not it may be impacted by climate change.

Simultaneously, while students were exploring their tradition in writing class, they were learning about the science of climate and climate change. This fostered the next step in the My Climate Story process: evaluating whether or not climate change will have an impact on the students’ cultural traditions. Using the G-WOW curriculum as an example, students investigated whether or not scientific evidence supports the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about their tradition and climate and drew a conclusion about whether science agrees with TEK. Students presented their findings in a written argument. Finally, students to combined their personal narrative and written argument into a documentary iMovie that tells their climate story. These documentaries were our students’ service learning projects and were shared at a community-wide Celebration of Learning. In addition, documentaries will be posted to the school’s YouTube channel and shared with local news stations.

During the second case study in reading, students explored the impact climate change has on cultures around the world. As an assessment of student learning for this case study, students created climate collages to demonstrate the impact of climate change on cultures around the globe. The last Connect tool was used during the third case study in computer applications. Students learned principles of design and created posters themed: “I can change the climate by….” Climate collages and posters were displayed at the Celebration of Learning prior to being posted around the school and community.

Why did you participate in Connect? Three MVA staff members participated in the July 2015 G’WOW teacher institute. There we were introduced to and used the Project Connect resources. We took what was relevant to our middle school curriculum and projects and shared them with the other MVA staff upon our return. We found the tools and templates easy to use and engaging to students. From that, staff was able to implement ways to effectively utilize the tools in their classroom.