(Wisconsin Dells) A $250,000 University of Wisconsin investment in Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center’s technological infrastructure has exponentially increased its capabilities for modern environmental education.  

“This upgrade truly opens up new capacities, diversification, efficiencies and revenue opportunities for Upham Woods,” says Justin Hougham, director of Upham Woods and Wisconsin 4-H Environmental Education Specialist. “This facility and program is strengthened by this strategic investment. We can now host webinars and provide our visitors access to web training and video conferencing.”

The investment provided for installing fiberoptic cable to modernize the science education site. The result is dramatically improved WiFi speeds. Download speeds surged from 3 megabits per second (Mbps) to 77 Mbps. Upload speeds jumped from 0.4 Mpbs to 66 Mbps.

What’s more — Upham Woods guests and clients will be able to perform real-time data uploads from remote sensing, instructional media and many other functions that will improve the Upham Woods experience.

“We’re very grateful to UW Colleges and Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, who spearheaded the effort, and her team, for the continued commitment to modernizing the potential of Upham Woods,” Hougham says.

“This upgrade is critical to bolster and enhance the unique opportunities Upham Woods programming provides,” says Chancellor Sandeen. “All of UW-Extension is working to become more relevant, flexible, and digital—this investment in modern technology continues to move us in that direction, in order to better serve the people of Wisconsin.”

Hougham presented the first webinar to be broadcast from Upham Woods on March 27. “To Unplug or Plug In” focused on how to select the proper digital technology and apps to enhance environmental education. It was available internationally.

Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center is a model residential outdoor learning center managed by the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The center sits on a prime location on the Wisconsin River, two miles north of the Wisconsin Dells, offering an excellent “river classroom” to study both the natural and cultural history of Wisconsin. The center rests on 310 total acres of forested land, including a 210-acre island called “Blackhawk Island.” The facility consists of 14 buildings including a fully equipped nature center and a raptor enclosure housing educational birds of prey. The center supplies lodging for 200 people, meals, and outdoor education year-round for youth and youth leaders, including environmental lesson plans, summer camp programming, leadership workshops and other conferences. Find out more about Upham Woods at http://fyi.uwex.edu/uphamwoods/.

Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development is part of the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, with more than 150,000 youth in urban, suburban and rural settings involved with 4-H and other UW-Extension youth programs in the state’s 72 counties. Youth, from five-year kindergarten to one year past high school, learn leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and communication to help prepare them for success, while engaging in fun, hands-on 4-H activities, from livestock care to art, drama and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Wisconsin 4-H’s 16,000 adult volunteers serve as mentors and role models who provide a safe, interactive place for youth to take risks, practice their independence and master new skills. Adults who volunteer for 4-H learn and strengthen skills that help them in the workplace and to become better connected to their communities. Find out more about Wisconsin 4-H at http://4h.uwex.edu/.

UW-Extension offers timely access to University of Wisconsin research and knowledge through educational colleagues in 72 county offices, on five 4-year campuses and within three tribal nations, offering educational programs that address the important issues of individuals, families, businesses and communities. Find your county extension office at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/.