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EOP News

DPI honors ‘Wise Guys,’ a rural research project with ties to UW-Madison

January 31, 2014
by Todd Finkelmeyer

A research project that came about thanks to an exciting and collaborative initiative between some rural Wisconsin school districts and an outreach unit within UW-Madison’s School of Education received a Standing Up for Rural Wisconsin Award during a ceremony Friday afternoon at the state Capitol.

Wise GuysThe name of the program is “Wise Guys and Wise(r) Guys,” which was developed by Justin Zoellick, who teaches fifth grade at Clintonville Middle School.

For the past four years, the rural Wisconsin school districts of Clintonville, Marion, Tigerton and Wittenberg-Birnamwood have worked hand-in-hand with Education Outreach and Partnerships (EOP) on an initiative known as RECESS, which is an acronym for Rural Educators Collaborating to Enhance Student Success.

“RECESS has really changed my career and who I am as a teacher,” Zoellick said earlier this year.

And thanks to that connection with the EOP-led program, Zoellick is changing the lives of the students he teaches.

The Standing Up for Rural Wisconsin Awards are administered by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  “Wise Guys and Wise(r) Guys” is one of six projects that were recognized during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

“The schools, libraries, and communities receiving rural awards represent the best of what Wisconsin has to offer,” state Superintendent Tony Evers says in this news release announcing the award winners. “The award recipients support and strengthen community relationships that help keep rural Wisconsin not just surviving, but thriving into the future.”

The Wise Guys club is an after-school program that was started in 2012 at Clintonville Middle School to expose middle school boys to new activities and opportunities.

Members of the community work with the Wise Guys on activities that have included knot tying, baking, fly fishing, trap shooting, photography, science experiments, ice fishing, team building and farming. In addition to community members volunteering their time, local businesses have also been partners, providing tours of their facilities and teaching middle schoolers about their products and services.

Wise Guys lead teachers meet with Tony EversAt the conclusion of the first year of Wise Guys, the group decided that there should be a second iteration that would focus on the kids giving back to the community. Wise(r) Guys have assisted in the cleanup of several vacant lots in town and volunteered at a local food pantry. The group has also planned an outing with a local veteran’s home, volunteered with the community winter holidays parade, and will be helping to put on a 5K community run to support the local school running clubs.

In addition to Zoellick, teacher Annette Van Straten also is coordinating the Wise Guys and Wise(r) Guys clubs.

“Across Wisconsin, people look to their schools and libraries with pride,” Evers says in the news release. “More than half of the state’s school districts have 1,000 students or less and those districts face unique challenges but also offer unique opportunities. These awards recognize the partnerships that advance opportunities for students in rural districts.”

To read more about the RECESS initiative that helped lead to the Wise Guys club, check outthis article in the most recent Learning Connections. For more information on RECESS or other EOP programs, email Mark Dziedzic or call 608-890-3091.

Wise Guys ceremony

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