Twenty Minutes a Day in Nature
Even though the human brain is hard-wired to function in natural surroundings, our daily “screen time” continues to increase. Entertainment, socializing, education, health and fitness all have us interacting with our phones, computers and other devices. We are becoming an indoor society—and disconnecting from nature.
Fortunately, we can still reap the health benefits of a nature connection. Studies show even 20 minutes spent in a natural environment, three times a week, can significantly reduce the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. Walking through a park or listening to birds can help lower blood pressure and increase energy levels. Even looking at greenspace through a window can be beneficial.
To maintain these health benefits, along with clean drinking water and nourishing food production, we must protect natural lands. Through land conservation, outreach and events, Groundswell helps people build deeper relationships with nature. Those connections lead to caring, and caring leads to protecting. One special place this happens is Patrick Marsh.
From wetland and wildlife preservation to school curriculum and sculpture, Patrick Marsh engages the community in many ways to build a healthier, nature-rich future for all. To learn more about this special place that is connecting communities with nature, click on the Story tab.
Coneflowers Are Not the Only Thing to Blossom at Patrick Marsh
Beyond the brick walls of a Sun Prairie middle school, you’ll find a world where prairie flowers and math lessons meet.
Seventh grade students helped Groundswell restore an 18-acre area of prairie at Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area, planting seeds in a precise grid. Cone flowers were not the only thing to blossom.
Teachers at Patrick Marsh Middle School connected the Groundswell prairie planting to geometry. They introduced the students to concepts of ratios and proportions, tied the planting to plots on a map and flew a drone so the students could get a bird’s eye view of the work.
“There are so many cool different aspects to that one experience,” said seventh grade teacher Vince Brandl. “It’s like a spiderweb, and as we connect everything, the more we see the additional connections that we can make.”
Patrick Marsh is a place where Groundswell helps people of all ages make connections with nature. Located on the Northeast side of Sun Prairie, the marsh includes parcels owned by the DNR, Groundswell and the City of Sun Prairie.
Groundswell has worked to expand and manage the protected area while serving as a catalyst to connect the community, including the nearby middle school, to the marsh.
“Groundswell has all these things happening, but they still check in with us,” Brandl said. “They ask us what we need or if they have an idea, they ask us what we think.”
Trails at the marsh take visitors along the edge of Brazee Lake, and through areas of prairie and oak savanna. The trails are popular with birdwatchers, families and other who love the outdoors.
Groundswell regularly hosts community events and projects, including nature hikes that incorporate everything from pollinators to poetry. Children are a common sight in the marsh, especially when school is in session.
“I can take a 10-minute hike outside of our school with the kids and talk about prairie plants or erosion,” Brandl said. “In a 15-minute walk, we’re using microscopes or kids are bringing out their Chromebooks and taking pictures or creating journals. There’s no other school in our community that has this, and it’s right in our backyard.”
For years, Patrick Marsh Middle School has held an after school Discovery Club that provides an opportunity for children to learn about the plans and animals of the marsh. Each fall the school also holds “Marsh Madness of Learning” when middle school students create lessons about the marsh and then teach elementary students.
“We just stay back as adults and let the kids teach the kids,” Brandl said.
One year, it wasn’t possible for the children to gather, so a Groundswell staff member spoke to students live from the marsh via a video feed from his phone. The discussion touched on environmental careers and included a little more geometry. “How to make the slope of the trail at not too steep of an angle,” Brandl said.
Groundswell also recently unveiled a sculpture that it completed with the help of donors and the inspiration of students at Sun Prairie’s Prairie Phoenix Academy and Westside Elementary School. The interactive sculpture represents resilience, second chances, and personal and community growth. It’s in the shape of a phoenix and it rises from the earth.
Brandl said the middle school years are not easy for some students.