REC Partnership Benefits City and University
Calling the Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC) an educational and research resource, University of Wisconsin-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford joined Racine Mayor John Dickert to sign a five-year extension for joint operation of the facility at 1301 West Sixth Street.
"UW-Parkside is honored to be a partner in this important work," Ford said, "as we celebrate, protect and advance the great environmental resources of the Root River watershed."
The partnership links a network of environmental stewards and affords UW-Parkside students in the College of Natural and Health Sciences the opportunity to engage in environmental research and scientific literacy in the community.
Emmanuel Otu, dean of the UW-Parkside College of Natural and Health Sciences, pointed to the importance of interaction by members of the community. "Combined with educational materials and programs, we believe that individuals will gain a better understanding and appreciation regarding stewardship of important natural resources," Otu said.
This year alone, 21 area schools and more than 1,500 students have participated in educational programs at the REC. The community center also features WeatherBug in the classroom, made available with the assistance of a grant from AT&T.
WeatherBug is being used at Case, Horlick and Washington Park high schools, and Starbuck Middle School in Racine, to provide atmospheric science enrichment, technology applications and curriculum assessment.
Mayor Dickert called the REC a center of opportunity. "This place makes kids in the neighborhood happy," he said. "It's here because of our partnership with UW-Parkside and the strength of [State Representative] Cory Mason working in Madison."
Additionally, the REC facility provides recreational opportunities for community members. Kayaks and canoes are available and this past boating season more than 2,000 people explored the Root River and the Great Lakes' environment.
Mason said the creation of a sustainable home for the environmental community center is a credit to the vision and commitment of Mayor Dickert and Chancellor Ford.
"As we move forward in this partnership with the city of Racine, it is UW-Parkside's intention to expand the knowledge of the Great Lakes resources and ecological issues that exist," Ford said.
Research at the facility also includes work being done by Dr. Julie Kinzelman, a member of the UW-Parkside Geosciences Department faculty and lead scientist for water testing within the Racine Health Department laboratory. For several years, and with the support of federal grants aimed at improving water quality in the Great Lakes, Kinzelman has worked with teams of student research assistants. One portion of their work resulted in a new real-time reporting on water quality for Racine beaches.
"UW-Parkside's College of Natural and Health Sciences, acting as an environmental education conduit, remains committed to generating and expanding educational programs and recreational opportunities to inform the public about the geological and hydrologic evolution of the Great Lakes," Ford said.
For more pictures from the event check out the UW-Parkside Flickr page.