Wild Rice in the Classroom

Wild rice in buckets

The goal of the Wild Rice in the Classroom project is to engage local teachers and K-12 students in conservation efforts to enhance native wetland plant communities in the Bay of Green Bay coastal wetlands and beyond. The project brings native aquatic plants, emphasizing Manoomin (in Ojibwe) or wild rice, into classroom spaces to enhance place-based and experiential learning. Students are introduced to the ecology and cultural importance of wild rice and plant seeds in buckets to care for in their classroom or school greenhouse. Access to Manoomin in learning spaces lends itself to diverse subjects, including science, math, indigenous studies and traditional ecological knowledge, agriculture, wildlife conservation, art, and more.

Following the classroom experience, resulting Manoomin “plugs” are transplanted at appropriate wetland sites within the greater Green Bay ecosystem to enhance aquatic plant diversity and provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife. Field trips to visit wetlands or transplant are welcome and encouraged! Students growing and caring for wild rice gives classes the opportunity to see their work in action and build a relationship with the water resources and wetlands in their communities. Coordinators are also working with tribal partners to elevate cultural knowledge and experiences as part of the project given the strong relationship of Manoomin to indigenous communities in Wisconsin.

This project is a cooperative effort between UW-Green Bay’s Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program, a grant received from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, and additional support from Ducks Unlimited.

Project Overview

Wild Rice in the Classroom began with a pilot project in March 2020 with 6th grade students at Parkview Middle School in Ashwaubenon. Students did an amazing job starting their plants in the classroom- which had to be “rescued” when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plants were raised in the UW-Green Bay greenhouse and videos sent to the students to provide progress updates. The resulting mature wild rice plugs were planted at L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve in Suamico in May 2020 as part of a wetland restoration effort there and as an educational opportunity for the broader community.

In August of 2020, a teacher workshop was held at L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve to emphasize the importance of Manoomin to the watershed and indigenous tribes and to share the procedure for their classroom planting. Teachers that attended took home the supplies needed to plant wild rice for the following school year.

In 2021, participants experienced challenges with viability of seed, but 7 teachers participated with their students to help troubleshoot and work through setbacks. One class at Green Bay East High School cared for wetland plugs donated by Stone Silo Prairie Gardens, which UW-Green Bay staff and students planted at Barkhausen in May 2021. The program has expanded again for 2022, with 17 teachers representing 14 schools participating, spanning elementary to community college levels and 4 counties in northeastern Wisconsin.

Project Contacts                 

Interested in learning more or know of a teacher in northeast Wisconsin who might like to participate in Wild Rice in the Classroom? Contact us! Lynn Terrien, Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Coordinator, terrienl@uwgb.edu
Amy Carrozzino-Lyon, Green Bay Restoration Project Coordinator, carrozza@uwgb.edu  Phone: (920) 465-5029
Class standing in or near water