UWSP’s Central Wisconsin Environmental Station (CWES) will be able to provide more funds and programs for children as a result of the Margaret A. Cargill (MAC) Foundation’s grant awarded this past June 2012.
CWES offers programs related to fishing, astronomy, survival skills, identification of different plants and animals and basic campfire songs for students at the Portage Country Boys and Girls Club and to the Amherst, Rosholt, and Iola school districts between September and April.
The three-year grant will provide CWES with $225,000 to fund after-school activities, summer camp programs and additional opportunities to hire and train camp staff and educators.
“The MAC Foundation approaches your operation,” said CWES Director Scott Johnson, “You can’t solicit them for money in any way. They approach you based on their own research and ask you to apply based on the goals of the Foundation.”
Johnson explained that the process for applying for the grant is quite extensive. Once an application is received from an organization like CWES, it goes through a series of rounds the MAC Foundation has set criteria for. If the organization meets this criterion, it moves on to the next round. Fourteen months after its application was submitted, CWES was notified of its acceptance.
The MAC Foundation is a dedicated supporter of programs and institutions devoted to environmental education. As a camp and place where the environment has become a significant learning tool, CWES embodies the core values of the MAC Foundation offering multiple opportunities for people to interact and connect with nature outside of the classroom.
“We go to each school district and boys and girls club and offer a free camp themed event with a variation of the programs we have at CWES,” said After School Program Coordinator Linda Gruber. “With the advice of the guidance counselors and administrators, we then choose 25 kids from each site to participate in our after school programs at the camp.”The grant itself will be used to increase attendance in both the after school program and the summer camp. Typically, the summer camp has a total of 300 students attending, but with the additional funding CWES will be able to hire additional staff and increase the attendance of summer camp to 425 students.
“For the first year of the grant we plan on using a portion of the money to add to our existing programs,” Johnson said. “Because the MAC Foundation is so specific to what the money can be used for, we are looking for additional grant opportunities to help fund and expand our education and sustainability programs at CWES.”
CWES has already begun expanding its existing programs and is currently making an effort to increase its sustainability. The camp has leased a large plot of land and planted a garden that provides a variety of vegetables for the camp’s kitchen. Gruber said that the CWES garden has provided approximately 1000 pounds of crops from the past season. Chicken coops have also been erected and are on track to produce 75 percent of the camp’s eggs.
“We’ve really made an effort to support ourselves through the garden and chickens, as well as support the local farmers around CWES as much as possible,” Gruber said.
On top of the MAC Foundation’s grant, CWES is also looking at expanding its outreach and education of UWSP natural resource majors. University students have the opportunity to fulfill many of their practicum hours at the camp by teaching school children basic environmental skills and applying education techniques out in the field.
“Working at CWES has always been an excellent opportunity for UWSP students to apply their skills in the field, especially those seeking a career in environmental education, and we’re really making an effort to making this one of the top environmental programs in the country,” Johnson said.
CWES has an ambitious vision to carry out its role as an environmental education facility by offering students of all ages the opportunity to get outside and develop a long-term connection with the environment.