Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming. He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018. He focuses on features and outdoor stories.
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A visit to Crystal Cave, the longest cave in Wisconsin, is an underground adventure, as well as an education. At least that's what Eric McMaster, executive director, wants for the more than 50,000 visitors who stop by the cave every season. "We hope people are entertained," he said, "but we also want them to learn about the cave, its history, and the geology of the area."
When several Cottage Grove residents decided the community needed a playground that could accommodate children of all abilities, they formed a task force, and after more than three years of planning, designing, and fundraising, the Woodridge Park Inclusive Playground opened in 2017. "It is overwhelming the amount of feedback that we have gotten from people who live in the community, and people who make it a destination playground and come from all over to use it," said Molly Pietruszewski, recreation services manager for Cottage Grove Parks.
Eagle Watch, which encouraged people to visit Wabasha and see bald eagles, had outgrown its small building on Pembroke Avenue, so in 2007 a new 15,000-square-foot facility opened along the Mississippi River and became the National Eagle Center. Now, a dozen years later, that facility, as nice as it is, is again too small to handle the more than 80,000 visitors that come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries each year.
More than 1 million visitors per year stop at Willow River State Park, five miles northeast of Hudson, Wis., according to Aaron Mason, park superintendent. Most of those visitors have plans to hike to Willow Falls. "We have a spectacular waterfall inside the park," Mason said, "and that is what drives most people to come here. We get a lot of people that come here to camp, hike, and go to the waterfall."
With severe weather season fast approaching, hundreds of Minnesotans have become trained storm spotters to assist the National Weather Service in gathering accurate weather data so the NWS can provide weather watches and warnings as needed. "Storm spotters are important, because their reports provide the real time account of what is actually happening," said Donna Dubberke, meteorologist at the National Weather Service forecast office in La Crosse, Wis. "It is part of what we call the integrated warning process."
The summer traditionally offers the highest chance of severe weather in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, and the past year has been a busy one for weather watchers. "We had all kinds of severe weather," said Donna Dubberke, meteorologist at the National Weather Service forecast office in La Crosse, Wis. "We had tornados. We had flooding. We had extreme winter weather. You name it, we had it." She noted that May, June, and July are the peak months for severe weather, with June being the prime month. Weather, however, can be unpredictable.
Many human beings watch an eagle or hawk soaring on the wind with a bit of envy, a feeling that likely inspired glider planes like those at the Stanton Airfield southwest of Cannon Falls, Minn. When the weather is right, some weekends will find "a dozen gliders lined up. Everybody wants to be up when the sky gets cooking," said Tom Kuhfeld, volunteer at the Stanton Airfield. "They want to fly, so we often have two tow planes going."
When the Minnesota Department of Education released the graduation rates for 2018 on Tuesday, April 23, there were two pieces of good news. First, the state's graduation rate was the highest it has ever been. "I am proud to announce that more Minnesota seniors than ever before graduated in 2018 with 55,869 students graduating," said Commissioner of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker. "That is 83.2% of the graduating class overall, making it the state's highest rate on record."
One of the biggest attractions at Kinnickinnic State Park west of River Falls is the Kinnickinnic River Delta, which extends more than half the width of the St. Croix River, offering extensive sand beaches. "It is primarily boat use, so that is a big draw in the summertime when people are coming in to Kinni with their boats via the St. Croix," said Aaron Mason, park superintendent. "They camp on the delta. It is pretty common on weekends to have several hundred boats down there, so it can be really busy on the water in the summertime."
More than 122,000 teachers from all 50 states have stepped up to the challenge of achieving national board certification, a peer-reviewed process leading to recognition as an accomplished teacher. Mike Yell, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Hudson Middle School, completed certification in 2003 and renewed his certificate in 2013. The Wisconsin educator said he would "strongly recommend national board certification to teachers wishing to take on a rigorous growth challenge that will ultimately improve their practice."