Jumping into Learning through TOAD: Teaching Outdoor Awareness and Discovery


Anne Bartels from Marinette County Land and Water Conservation Division has a unique role as the Information and Education Specialist. As a full-time educator with a specific focus on public environmental education programs for mostly school-age children, Anne uses a unique program, TOAD, as a way to get students to “hop” on board with environmental learning.

Teaching Outdoor Awareness and Discovery (TOAD) is Marinette County’s environmental education programs. TOAD programs provide environmental and conservation topics in the classroom and extend classroom learning into the outdoors. Some key areas addressed are water, groundwater, fish and wildlife habitat, forests and trees, nature identification, wetlands, and soils.

For years, Anne was running the TOAD program for Marinette County when she realized that she shared many of the same ideas and goals of the WI Land+Water Youth Education Committee. As a member of the Youth Education Committee, Anne is working to integrate the TOAD program with our association’s statewide education efforts to more effectively educate
young people and the public about the importance of conservation.

"The earlier we teach children to care about nature and their surroundings, the easier it will be for them as adults to do their part in conserving it."

- Anne Bartels, Marinette County

The direct benefits that Anne and her team provide are field equipment and
knowledgeable staff to teach lessons and address groups free of charge. Anne also coordinates the Sand Lake Conservation Camp for middle school students, hosting an average of 70 kids each year. Many students that participate in the middle school camp go on to attend WI Land+Water’s high school Conservation Camp. With up to seven years of additional
conservation education beyond the classroom, students that have that exposure are more likely to pursue a career in natural resources and at least practice conservation stewardship into adulthood.

In addition to TOAD and coordinating summer camps, Anne volunteers at the annual Wisconsin Envirothon, where she develops the hands-on exams and uses her program materials to educate students at the Wildlife Station. Marinette County also participates in WI Land+Water’s Conservation Awareness Poster contest, putting K-12 students’ creativity to the test in depicting an annual conservation poster theme.

Not only is Anne making an impact with students, she also teaches conservation programs to adults, from lakeshore associations and clubs to retirement homes and family reunions. Altogether, Anne’s total community outreach and impact is outstanding, as she’s presented 200+ programs to over 7,000 people.

By integrating her TOAD programs and the WI Land+Water Youth Education programs, Anne is imparting her love, knowledge, and passion for the outdoors to her community so they can share it with their families and friends. This kind of learning through up-close experiences about the importance of our natural world is especially powerful for younger people living in an increasingly distracted society.

Anne said Marinette County often uses this quote as a slogan to describe why they teach kids about conservation: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum, Senegalese Ecologist.

“This quote reflects how I feel about teaching people about nature and conservation in general,” said Anne Bartels. “The earlier we teach children to care about nature and their surroundings, the easier it will be for them as adults to try to do their part in conserving it.”

Anne is presenting the TOAD program and the values of youth education
during one of the breakout sessions at WI Land+Water’s upcoming annual conference.

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