Third graders at Summit Elementary are preparing for a creative writing project.

"We're walking all around here to see if there's animal tracks or birds nests or squirrels nests or to see if we can hear anything like maybe we could hear a bird or something," said Kiarra Fruetel, Summit Elementary School 3rd grader.

The students will take these observations back to class and begin writing paragraphs based on what they experienced.

"I think that nature and the environment is a natural appeal for almost all third graders; almost all elementary aged kids," said Scott Graham, Summit Elementary School 3rd grade teacher. "They just have a natural interest. They want to learn about that."

So, teachers like Mr. Graham have incorporated the outdoors into their daily lessons for years. But starting next fall, all classrooms at Summit will be a part of the Environmental School.

"All of our teachers have been writing environmental units over the past summer and through this fall," said Dirk Hunter, Summit Elementary School principal. "They're working environmental partners in the community. So for each of these units we have identified an environmental partner that'll be working with our teachers on these units.

For instance, in 2nd grade we have a soils unit which is a part of the regular curriculum in the School District of La Crosse in science. What makes it different here is we've got La Crosse County Agricultural Department working with our kids. We've got Bluff Country Master Gardeners coming out to work with our kids and redesigning our butterfly garden, those sorts of things."

And with seven different environmental zones, like the butterfly garden and the frog pond, already designated, Summit's transition to an environmental school seems to be a natural fit.

"We are going to be an environmental school but we're in many ways we'll be just like any school," said Graham. "We'll have the same curriculum. We'll be teaching the same things just with a little different focus. And what we're working on is that lifelong learner. We wanted to create citizens who care about their environment and who know how humans impact the environment."