Going Sustainable Events Live Forward Blog About Us

Historical Programs




Outdoor Learning Network

Comprised of diverse local educators, parents volunteers, and district leaders, the Outdoor Learning Network worked to promote, support, and expand outdoor learning.

The Outdoor Learning Network connected educators to resources in the community to foster collaboration, overcome obstacles, and meet the needs of the whole child through meaningful outdoor learning experiences.

Sustain Dane hosted free Outdoor Learning Network meetings in 2016a and 2017 with creative programs to inspire peer-learning, coach best practices, and connect educators and engaged community members with helpful resources on outdoor learning strategies. These meetings specifically addressed the most common challenges educators face when engaging students in outdoor learning.


smART [sustainability + madison + art]

smART was a community-based art initiative designed to engage Madison residents in envisioning a sustainable, just, and healthy future for their own neighborhoods and communities. In summer 2015, we held a dedication for our first completed mural at the Darbo-Worthington Salvation Army. Neighbors also created the mural on Zion City Community Outreach Center with Dane Arts Mural Arts, DAMA. The Zion City mural is over 100ft long and was created by more than 300 Arbor Leopold neighbors, beginning with a large community conversation in April 2015.


In this program, community-generated dialogue around sustainability produced collaborative and high quality works of art painted by the residents of the neighborhood, in their neighborhood, and for their neighborhood over the next few years. These facilitated conversations provided safe spaces for Madisonians to share a diversity of creative ideas, ultimately enhancing a resilient sense of community.

Greater Madison Engaged

How can we improve local decision-making so that it promotes community well-being?  This question sparked the creation of Greater Madison Engaged. After 50 one-on-one’s with community members, Sustain Dane and over 45 partners planned and facilitated workshops on equitable community engagement in 2015-2016, featuring Nikola Pavelic, Dubuque’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly Larson, Dubuque’s Human Rights Director, and Cori Burbach, Dubuque’s Sustainable Community Coordinator.


Watch the Grassroots Session from the Greater Madison Engaged workshop with panelists Will Green of Mentoring Positives, Lexi London of Bayview Foundation and Community Art, Karime Perez of Centro Hispano, and Eric Upchurch of Council of Communities.

“We are in the work. It’s a dedication that you have to have. I don’t think a lot of people understand what you need to give up in this community to be a grassroots leader and go after people and help them … It’s that important for me.” –Will Green, Mentoring Positives


Our Madison Through My Senses

Our Madison Through My Senses (OMTMS) was an experience led by Centro Hispano, Center for Resilient Cities, and Sustain Dane, with a goal to open spaces where community members from Madison’s South Side neighborhoods can gather, voice common goals, and share their stories in an effort to work together for stronger, healthier, and more united neighborhoods.


At the end of the summer 2015 program, over 130 neighbors came together, celebrated, and cooked at Food Day: Celebrating Food Through Our Senses. Participant Devon Hamilton shares, “So many of us are from so many places… Food is a universal language. And cook[ing] for people is a way to speak to them from your heart.”


Tactical Urbanism Sessions

Tactical Urbanism encompasses a variety of community actions aimed at improving the places we live. To expand and encourage the practice of place-making in Madison, Sustain Dane, UW UniverCity Alliance, and grassroots organizations came together to put on a series of short informational and training sessions on different approaches to Tactical Urbanism. The 2015 sessions included Little Free Libraries Build, Park(ing) Day, BanditPoetry, and Planting Urban Prairies. Sustainable Schools Initiative


Sustainable Schools Initiative

Between 2009- 2012, Sustain Dane partnered with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and Edgewood College to help MMSD explore how they can better integrate sustainable practices into day to day operations as well as teaching and learning. A District Sustainably Plan outlining current sustainable practices, its vision of sustainability and its sustainability goals was drafted the fall of 2012.



People.Power.Planet Campaign

From 2011 through 2014, Sustain Dane, in partnership with McKinstry, coordinated the People.Power.Planet that encouraged students, teachers, and administrators across the district to learn, act and share practices that save energy and reduce waste.

Badger Rock Middle School

Sustain Dane shepherded the idea for an environmentally-based charter school from its initial concept, through the Madison Metropolitan School District system, to completion. The result: Badger Rock Middle School hosted its inaugural class of 49 students in fall 2011. This school embraces the fundamental tenets of Education for Sustainability – students learn systems thinking and civic responsibility through real work in the school and community.

GROW Coalition

Sustain Dane is a founding member of the Madison Area GROW Coalition, a network of organizations and individuals in Madison committed to the principle that outdoor education is an essential part of schooling. GROW is focused on healthy childhood development, successful learning, and the formation of ecologically literate, civically engaged young people. The GROW Coalition works towards integrating the use of outdoor learning and garden based education into area schools, believing that outdoor classrooms should be an extension of the classroom, every bit as foundational as libraries and computer labs.

MPower Schools

During the 2011-12 school year, Sustain Dane piloted The MPower Schools Program. This year-long program was patterned after Sustain Dane’s successful MPower Business Program. During the yearlong program, dedicated students, parents, and staff at East High School and Leopold, Lapham, and Thoreau Elementary Schools formed green teams, took on multiple and varied projects related to waste, energy, and water conservation, and made significant strides in sustainability and sustainability education. During 2013 and 2014, the MPower Schools Program teamed up with the GROW Coalition to offer the Growing Outdoor Classrooms Program to elementary and middle schools in Dane County.

Metcalfe’s Garden Leader Awards

In 2012 4 local leaders were awarded The Metcalfe’s School Garden Leader Award in recognition of their efforts to bring outdoor learning and garden-based education to students in our community. Awardees included: Cheryl Stout from Oregon Middle School, Mary Michaud from Van Hise Elementary in Madison, and Natalie and Gabrielle Hinaraha from the Clark Street Community School in Middleton. Each award winner received $1000 towards enhancing their school’s outdoor classroom. Sustain Dane and Metcalfe’s recognized the winners at the 2012 Badger Bioneers Conference.