LEARNING PARTNER OF THE MONTH
March 14th is National Ag Day, so for this month’s Meet SAGES' Learning Partner feature, we thought it appropriate to highlight a local farmer and strong SAGES’ supporter — Jonathan Gibbs!
Mr. Gibbs farms with his dad just minutes away from SAGES, east on County Highway A. His farm’s proximity to school, plus Jonathan’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for agriculture have been a real asset. With little hesitation, he has helped us realize success on numerous occasions across the years. He has served as an Ag Day presenter multiple times, “harvested” samples of soybean plants and corn stalks from his fields for classroom lessons, and provided equipment that helped us get big jobs done more efficiently. In fact, his skidsteer has made a few different trips into town for anything from clearing sod at the Community Garden to transplanting our five apple trees.
Mr. Gibbs’ support goes beyond his time and tools. Over the years, Jonathan and his wife, Karen, have also generously gifted items they noticed we could use, such as a Canon digital camera, Rock-the-Bike bicycle blender kit, science table, and Can-o-worms composter. He has participated in and secured sponsors for our SAGES Foundation Golf Outing, plus offers his “expert advice” at no charge to our Ag Teacher.
Mr. Gibbs, we appreciate what you do for agriculture on a daily basis and all the ways you’ve helped SAGES learners “grow!” No doubt you’ve helped “cultivate” future agriculturists! Thank you!
For additional background, read the below “Q&A” with Mr. Gibbs.
- Q: You attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, what was your degree?
- A: Bachelor of Science – Agronomy. I also have a Certified Crop Advisor certification (CCA) through the American Society of Agronomy
- Q: How you would describe your farming operation?
- A: 5th generation family farm. We have a diverse operation where we raise dairy beef, custom raise heifers, and grow cash grains, processing vegetables and forages. Our crops are used to either feed our livestock or feed and fuel America and the world. While I may be the primary decision maker for day to day decisions, our family farm truly is a family farm. My wife, Karen is involved in a support role and big picture decision making. She also keeps me grounded and reminds me to look at the positive aspects. I also look to my father, Dave Gibbs, and my uncle, John Mersch, for their guidance and experience that farming 41 years together provides.
- Q: What current Boards & Volunteer efforts are you involved with?
- A: Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board (state soybean checkoff, farmer-led board) – Secretary/Treasurer and Church Council First Ev. Lutheran Church in Beaver Dam
- Q: What other jobs have you held prior to being back on the farm full-time?
- A: Summer internship with Hartung Brothers based in Madison, WI in summer 2000. Then, I went full-time upon college graduation. Worked full-time for 13 years covering Illinois (7 years) and Spring Green / Central Sands in Wisconsin (6 years). Duties were a processing vegetable (sweet corn, snap bean, canning pea) Field Representative.
- Q: Anything else you want to share about you or your involvement with SAGES?
- A: Besides my children attending SAGES, we are excited to lend a helping hand when needed. As a farmer, I am part of only 2% of the population which are classified as farmers. That means I have a lot of friends and neighbors who are not farmers. I am continually excited about SAGES, because Agriculture and the Environment are not just a class, they are a guiding theme every day. SAGES gives the opportunity to bring the ideas and questions that both farmers and non-farmers both have at a childhood age with the students, but also with the adult ages due to SAGES high level of community involvement.
Meet SAGES' Learning Partner is a monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school. If you wish to share your time, talents, or support with the school, email Sheri Hicken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FEBRUARY 2019 LEARNING PARTNER
Meet SAGES' Learning Partner is a monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school. This month, we’re featuring Rick Vant Hoff, a local man whose passion is “for the birds!”
Mr. Vant Hoff has “soared” into SAGES across the years offering special all-school presentations on his “feathered friends” including talks on whooping cranes and the assortment of birds he has photographed among the trees of the School Forest. He’s assisted with the installation of Bluebird Nestboxes on Earth Day. Last spring, he shared his birdwatching knowledge serving as a presenter during our annual Pontoon Classroom. Most recently, Mr. Vant Hoff met our 3rd graders at the School Forest to clean out the Bluebird Nestboxes and explore what was inside. Additionally, he assisted with taking the boxes down and plans to return to SAGES again in February to assist 3rd grade in making modifications to the nestboxes so they can more easily be opened for monitoring during the nesting season.
Actively involved in the community, Rick Vant Hoff serves in a wide-variety of volunteer roles including Marsh Haven Nature Center Board in Waupun, SSM Long Term Care Board in Fond du Lac, Church Health Services Board of Directors in Beaver Dam, plus he is a member of the Horicon Bird Club and volunteers for the DNR at Horicon Marsh. Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Vant Hoff is glad to help SAGES whenever and however he can. Beyond sharing his love of birds, Mr. Vant Hoff has also served as a “surrogate grandparent” for learners who didn’t have someone able to attend “Grandparents Day” functions at SAGES.
Thank you, Rick, for your ongoing support of SAGES and the numerous ways you have helped SAGES’ learners and staff “spread our wings!”
JANUARY 2019 LEARNING PARTNER
Meet SAGES' Learning Partner is a special monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school. To kick-off 2019, we are featuring the Fox Lake Preservation Organization (FLPO)!
A 501 (C) 3 non-profit, FLPO’s purpose is to “preserve and improve Fox Lake and its surroundings, and to enhance the water quality, fishery, boating safety, and aesthetic values of Fox Lake as a public recreational facility for today and future generations.” (https://foxlakeflpo.org/)
Over the years, FLPO has been a strong supporter of our school providing access to authentic learning experiences involving our nearby natural resource -- the lake. Each fall, SAGES' older grades have been invited to assist with FLPO’s annual Fall Fish Stocking, where learners pull on waders and bucket fish from yellow perch to muskellunge to walleye to northern pike into the lake. A hands-on learning experience like no other! (*To view a short video featuring highlights from Fall 2018 FLPO Fish Stocking, click here)
Each spring, SAGES conducts an all-school learning experience on Fox Lake -- our “Pontoon Classroom.” This wouldn’t be possible without FLPO members generously donating their pontoon boats, time to drive our learners to the various learning stations, plus their insights about the lake. Some FLPO members have served as learning station hosts and presenters, too! We’re also grateful to have been included in FLPO’s “Healthy Lakes” work, which has afforded our learners opportunities to better understand real-world environmental protection projects including shoreline plantings and “fish stick” installations.
FLPO - Thank you for your efforts to preserve and improve Fox Lake, plus involving SAGES’ learners in valuing and caring for this local treasure along with you!
December 2018 LEARNING PARTNER
This month for our "Meet SAGES' Learning Partner," we happily highlight Gene Huettner and the City of Fox Lake!
Director of Public Works for the City of Fox Lake, Mr. Huettner and his crew at the City Garage have provided strong support to SAGES over the years. During winter 2013-14, when SAGES’ 1st and 2nd graders designed an “Outdoor Classroom” for our schoolyard, Gene kindly transported and placed our 5 donated boulders for “classroom seating” one by one with the city’s endloader. That spring, he also hauled wood chip mulch to our school so we could complete that outdoor learning space. The truckloads of mulch didn’t stop there though. No matter what season we call, Gene is willing to help bring mulch for us to use in our garden projects, as well as at the School Forest. Summer 2018, after we had cut and cleared the sod for a new corn plot at our Community Garden, Gene and Chris helped us haul the sod away and prep the ground with their tractor-powered rototiller ﹘ tasks that would have taken us multiple trips and lots of time using our walk-behind tiller.
Mr. Huettner, your willingness to answer our calls and assist with “heavy-lifting” for our projects is “mulch” appreciated! Thank you, Gene and City of Fox Lake!!!
November LEARNING PARTNER
November 1st was Global Outdoor Classroom Day, so for this month’s “Meet SAGES’ Learning Partner” special monthly segment, we wish to spotlight Sandy Benton — Wisconsin Green Schools Network!
As WGSN’s Director of School Services, Sandy is currently working along-side SAGES’ staff to further enhance our school’s approach to project-based learning as part of agricultural studies and to maximize our Field Study Experiences outside the traditional classroom setting and in local natural areas — our School Forest, Fox Lake, SAGES’ Community Garden, Horicon Marsh, area agri-businesses.
When it comes to environmental education, project-based learning, and understanding how a charter school runs, Sandy brings a rich resume. She founded Fox River Academy (FRA), an environmental charter school, in 2005 with a colleague and currently serves as President of the FRA Governance Board. Her passion for teaching and learning is evident through the work she has done over the years with colleagues from across Wisconsin to create the WGSN. Sandy has served as a coach and consultant to develop and implement rigorous place-based and inquiry-based learning experiences in numerous schools including SAGES!
Beyond her current collaborations with our teachers, Sandy has also shared her enthusiasm and environmental education expertise with our learners. Last spring, Sandy served as a presenter during SAGES’ annual “Pontoon Classroom.” At her stop on Fox Lake, she conducted a “Water Quality Indicators” learning station, where our K-6 learners got to dip net and complete macroinvertebrate explorations. A favorite station by many! [Curious about SAGES’ Pontoon Classroom 2018? Want to see Sandy in action? View a short Pontoon Classroom summary video onSAGES’ Facebook page.]
Sandy’s work and that of WGSN is innovative and much appreciated by SAGES and many others. In fact, Wisconsin Green Schools Network was among 8 “Standing Up for Rural Schools” award recipients recognized during the 10th Annual Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance Conference this week, Oct. 29-30, in Wisconsin Dells. [To learn more, read article:Eight ‘Standing Up for Rural Wisconsin’ recipients named.]
Congratulations, WGSN! SAGES is so fortunate to be learning and working with you in the F.I.E.L.D. — Fostering Inquiry and Empowering Learners through Discovery!
October LEARNING PARTNER
Meet SAGES' Learning Partner is a special monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school. In October, we’re featured Renee Wahlen!
Mrs. Wahlen is Director at Marsh Haven Nature Center, which is located on highway 49 at the north end of the Horicon Marsh. From organizing yearly events and conducting educational programming to helping in the visitors center and caring for the critters, Mrs. Wahlen oversees all the day-to-day operations of this non-profit, volunteer-supported nature center. She earned her master’s degree from Naropa University - Boulder, CO in Transpersonal Psychology with a concentration in ecopsychology, which looks at human and nature relationships. Concerned about the disconnect kids have with nature and what that might mean for the future, Mrs. Wahlen’s favorite part of her work is sharing a message of care, concern, and education for all animals, including local species. She states, “It’s an honor and privilege to work with our Animal Ambassadors!”
SAGES appreciates Mrs. Wahlen sharing her vast knowledge and love of nature with our learners through special presentations at school and also making our annual 4th-6th Grade SAGES’ Camp possible at Marsh Haven, where she leads several inspiring learning stations!
Thank you, Mrs. Wahlen, for helping us gain a greater appreciation for the amazing animals and fascinating natural features found right here in our own backyard. You’re programs are always a HOO-T!
September LEARNING PARTNER
"Meet SAGES' Learning Partner" is a special monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school. For September, we’re featuring SAGES Foundation!
A 501 (C) 3 non-profit, SAGES Foundation was created for the purpose of supporting the School for Agricultural and Environmental Studies (SAGES) to strive for a high quality education for all learners, kindergarten through 6th grade. All Foundation members are unpaid volunteers and currently include: Dale Paul, Cody Eilbes, Melinda Opalewski, Jeff Hicken, and Kathy Paul.
Though a small group, their efforts to fundraise and seek sponsorship and donations are exponential! Over the past six years, the Foundation provided $38,997.23 for purchases of requested technology, learning tools, staff professional development training, and more that went above the school district's budget. Beyond monetary gifts, SAGES' learners also benefit from a vacant lot donated to the Foundation for the school's use. That plot of land on the corner of State and Crocker Streets in Fox Lake is now home to "Annie's Garden: A Community Garden Project Created & Maintained by SAGES' Learners."
The Foundation’s main fundraising events each year include the “Friends of SAGES Banquet” in early-April, plus their annual "Craft Fair & Bake Sale" in July and "Golf Outing" — held recently on Saturday, August 24! (View snapshots from the day here - https://video214.com/play/7g0HfsWflteJFW8a1Ng2tA/s/dark.)
Thanks to the Foundation (and those who have donated to this organization) for your help in sustaining SAGES through financial gifts you’ve secured!
August Learning PARTNER
Meet SAGES' Learning Partner is a special monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school. This month, we’re featuring our friends at Ergo Bank!
Ergo Bank, formerly Farmers State Bank, is a strong supporter and participant at SAGES’ events like our annual Golf Outing, as well as generous donors. In April 2018, Ergo Bank presented SAGES Foundation with a $5,000 donation and the commitment to continue that financial gift each year for five years.
Thank you, Kyle, Tim, and the crew at Ergo Bank Fox Lake, for your continued support of SAGES. Learning Partners like you help us maintain our project-based approach to learning, which yields so many positive “dividends” for our learners and the community!
Learn more about Ergo Bank at ergobank.com.
July LEARNING PARTNER
Rachel Carson is quoted as saying, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Our “Meet SAGES’ Learning Partner” special monthly segment for July features an outdoor and environmental enthusiast, Mrs. Liz Orsay, who has been one such adult for SAGES!
Prior to retirement, Liz and her husband, Chuck, lived and worked in the Chicago region. Liz is a physician and served as an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work included teaching and research in addition to clinical duties in the emergency room. In 1995, Liz and Chuck bought a cottage on Fox Lake, which became their “getaway” for weekends and summers throughout the time their children were growing up. When Liz retired, she was vice-chair of the Emergency Medicine Department. Having always enjoyed their time at Fox Lake, while working and raising their family, Chuck and Liz chose to spend their summers in Fox Lake after retirement. The rest of the year, they can be found in southwest Florida, where Liz spent her early childhood and completed her post-graduate training, as well as where Chuck’s parents retired.
Not shy about volunteering, Liz and Chuck are active in an array of community organizations and efforts here and in Florida. Both are on the board of the “Friends of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.” As such, they’ve been heavily involved in many projects the “Friends” have undertaken including maintaining the native plant demonstration gardens, writing a grant for, developing, and maintaining the “Sense of Wonder Discovery Trail” at the Refuge’s Headquarters, along with working diligently to control invasive plant species like buckthorn, garlic mustard, and wild parsnip. Beyond that, they’re also involved in the Fox Lake Preservation Organization (FLPO) and the Inland Lake District working on projects to improve the water quality of Fox Lake. In addition to working on their Natural Resource Committee, Liz planted and helps maintain the demonstration buffer zone and rain gardens at Town Park on Blackhawk Trail. In Florida, Liz is co-chair of their development’s Landscape Committee, a 65-acre community 3 blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. On this team, she, the co-chair, and committee have worked tirelessly to introduce environmentally responsible landscaping practices and wildlife friendly plantings in an effort to be better stewards of the land while maintaining the aesthetics.
Life-long learners and teachers, Liz and Chuck recently attended and became certified as UW-Extension Master Naturalists, a state-wide program offered at various times and locations each year. Plus, they feel fortunate to have access to the University of Florida Extension program to guide their practices through the “Florida Friendly” landscaping program.
SAGES is grateful to Liz and Chuck for their willingness to share their knowledge, enthusiasm, and expertise in all things environmental! Liz has helped spark a “sense of wonder” within our 2nd graders and their teachers through her classroom Rain Garden presentations, as well as conducting special spring clean-up and planting days outdoors in the Rain Garden. On summer days, she can also be found, of her own initiative, weeding in the SAGES’ Rain Garden to ensure it is well-maintained and thriving. In spring 2017, SAGES’ 5th graders gained the unique opportunity to understand “Citizen Science” in action as Liz coordinated the experience of shadowing “Bluebird House Nestbox Monitoring” at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. In fall 2017, she shared her passion for phenology and making observations and notes about nature during a learning station hosted for grades 4-6 at Clausen Park, along Fox Lake. Over the past six years, Liz and Chuck have also been loyal volunteers driving boat and conducting learning stations for SAGES’ annual “Pontoon Classroom.”
Thank you, Liz and Chuck, for being two adults who share your time, resources, and enthusiasm for nature to ensure “A Sense of Wonder” is being instilled within the learners and educators at SAGES! These future stewards of our world are lucky to have you in their lives.
June Learning Partner
June is National Dairy Month, so for this month’s “Meet SAGES’ Learning Partner” special monthly segment, we salute two dairy farmers, Travis Paul and Ron Daane!
Travis and Ron have provided support for SAGES in numerous ways since the school opened in 2012... Travis Paul operates D&T Dairy in Fox Lake, which is home to SAGES’ “school” cow and heifer, Noel and Nellie. Visits from Noel and Nellie to SAGES, made possible by Travis trailering his animals to our school for learning events, provide our 4K-6 learners with a direct connection to the state’s Dairy Industry and have increased their knowledge of animal science. Ron Danne works with his family on Daane Dairy in Brandon. Ron is a member of SAGES’ Governance Board, has hosted a “Waupun Area FFA Day on the Farm” at their farm, and has shared his knowledge of Dairy Farming in a variety of ways at SAGES across the years. From serving as a learning station presenter when Noel and Nellie visit to helping students take soil samples in our gardens or transplanting our apple trees, Ron is a SAGES' supporter we can call on to help out however and whenever we need him.
Thank you, Travis and Ron, for being such “Moo-velous” dairymen. We are “udderly” delighted to partner with you!
If you wish to partner with SAGES, email Sheri Hicken at email@example.com.
May Learning Partner
Tim Kelly is a parent of a SAGES’ 5th grader, who has lent a hand on numerous occasions. Along with chaperoning on a few different Field Study Trips, Mr. Kelly setup and conducted an "Ice Fishing" Learning Station on Fox Lake during our 2018 SAGES’ Winter Olympics and served as a Group Leader for our all-day Earth Day event in April. Plus, for the past two years he has helped his daughter’s class design and build an upcycled lamp to donate to the “Friends of SAGES Banquet” Live Auction.
Mr. Kelly, we appreciate you sharing your time and talent with us. You can definitely “light up” SAGES’ learning events. Thank you!
April Learning Partner
"Meet SAGES' Learning Partner" is a NEW monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school.
This month, we salute Dave Imhoff! ---- Mr. Imhoff is a retired educator who began his teaching career in 1976. He came to Waupun Area School District in 1983, where he taught a total of 29 years -- one year in middle school science and the rest in 5th grade. He retired in 2011, but came out of retirement to teach at SAGES in 2012-2013. Beyond teaching 5th/6th grade in year one, Dave has continued supporting SAGES over the years as a volunteer. He is currently a member of our Outdoor Learning Committee helping plan learning activities that utilize natural spaces in our area. From planting trees and identifying spring ephemerals at the school forest to teaching canoeing basics on Fox Lake or conducting Native American naming and beading during SAGES’ Camp, among several other activities, he has shared his expertise and passion for nature and environmental education in numerous ways.
Mr. Imhoff, you’re a “tree-mendous” asset to SAGES. Thank you!
March Learning Partner
Introducing... "Meet SAGES' Learning Partner" --- a NEW monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school.
David Laatsch, a.k.a., the “Chicken Man,” is a retired H.S. Agriculture Instructor, UW-Extension agent, and lifelong Poultry Farmer. Since SAGES began, Mr. Laatsch has shared his agricultural knowledge and enthusiasm for chickens in numerous ways! In 2014, he mentored our student “chicken team” helping plan and build SAGES’ chicken coop and generously loans chickens from his flock each fall/spring allowing learners to experience animal science & responsibility first-hand. He’s also provided eggs to incubate and served as a presenter at several SAGES’ learning events.
Thank you, Mr. Laatsch, for being an “egg-cellent” community learning partner!
Other Valuable Supporters of SAGES
Grand River Turkey Club, long-time supporters of SAGES and environmental education. In April 2018, they also committed to providing a financial gift of $500 each year for five years.
Randy Stampfl, Dodge County forester, taught our Middle School students how to calculate basal area of trees in our forest, and explained that carefully selected harvests are part of maintaining a healthy sustainable forest.
Sena DeJesus, employee at Marsh Haven Nature Center, taught us about how Native American people gathered and prepared their food. She also taught Native American proverbs from Wisconsin tribes. She was a great help to SAGES camp.
Peter Hartzheim, City Council Alderman for Fox Lake, helped two 8th grade students from SAGES work toward creating a community garden. Peter was intrigued with their project, so he donated his time to help the students by tilling the plot to get the garden prepared.
Kelly Thomas and Andrew Aelesen, from the Wisconsin Rural Water Association (WRWA) came to our school to inform the students about groundwater, how fertilizer and chemicals affect underground aquifers, and taught us about different kinds of aquifers. They handed out their magazine, and a water bottle for each student.
Raymond Durr, a Dodge County Master Gardener, helped two SAGES eighth graders plan a community garden. Raymond helped them mark off their lot and fill out a grant. He donated his time, and helped make their dream a reality.
Jonathan & Karen Gibbs have donated their time and also generously donated the school camera. Karen's dad came and talked to the staff about certain subjects.
Doug Plier, Dodge County Attorney, taught students how to play chess, and he volunteered his time at camp to teach us about space. He took a small group of students to a chess tournament where they won first place.
Ron Danne, a local farmer, helped the students take soil samples during a recent AG day event, and helped the students learn that their soil had too much phosphorus. He told them that they need to put some other materials on the gardens, in order to lower the level. He has also help present about Noel, our school heifer.
Andy Glewen, a local excavation company owner, has donated his time to make a level surface for us to build a chicken coop and donated the screens.
Carlton Schley, a local farmer, has been a huge volunteer for SAGES. He has moved mulch into the school forest, so that the students can haul more mulch in the woods. If you call Mr. Schley, and ask him to do something, he’s very willing to help. He has been helping with the school forest since day one.
Mac’s BBQ has donated their time to cook and gave a variety of meats to SAGES. He conducted a “Meat Raffle Board” for a Fundraiser to Benefit at SAGES. Also, he has provided the meat cost for the SAGES booth at Beaver Dam Pepper Festival.
Claudine Lehman works with Wisconsin Women for Agriculture. She has donated her time and brought snacks for the students, and meals for presenters during the SAGES AG day.
Bill Bruins talked about his role on the DNR board; is WASD School Board President and supports SAGES in many ways by attending events.
Brad Ruenger, the Fox Lake Utility Operator, took the middle school students at SAGES on a trip through the water facilities in Fox Lake. He explained many of the problems caused in the Fox Lake aquifers, and gave the students a better overview of water management.
Rick Van Hoff showed a bird presentation to the SAGES students. He was taking pictures of birds at the school forest, and he came to talk with SAGES about whooping cranes and “Operation Migration”, which is an operation to help whooping cranes migrate. He also serves as a fill-in grand for students who don’t have a family member come on Grandparent’s Day.
Geno Huettner, a Fox Lake resident, helped deliver 5 boulders for the SAGES Outdoor Classroom. He has helped create a loved working space, and all of the students enjoy the addition to the school grounds.
Diane Kitchen and Marcy Sagl runs a local organization that lets students read to a dog. Thanks letting SAGES kids read to your dogs and Improved many kids reading levels. All the kids Loved the Dogs, and many times seeing the dogs made many of the students days.
Fox Lake Preservation Organization (2015) - Let the 7th and 8th grade students release 1,500 perch by the town park and then we released 250 musky and 500 northern pike. And maybe next year the 7th and 8th graders get to do it again next year but maybe even walleye. So thank you Fox Lake Preservation Organization.
Brenda Gudex, Fond du Lac Agriculture Council, Agriculture Ambassador, comes each year to present ag topics.