Innovation Awards Reinforce Community Connections through Extension Research and Outreach

UW–Madison Extension awarded grant funding to seven projects that bring innovation to the division’s outreach mission. Extension annually solicits proposals for new projects around engagement and research. Innovation is a core part of Extension’s programming, which ensures that the division is addressing emerging issues in Wisconsin’s communities.

“UW–Madison Extension is a conduit for innovative ideas to flow from communities to campus and from campus to communities. These projects show how our statewide network comes together in collaboration with Wisconsin’s families, businesses, nonprofit groups and others to make our state stronger,” Karl Martin, Extension’s dean and director, said.

Youth Forward Wisconsin

Chelsea Wunnicke, Jenny Abel, Luisa K. Gerasimo, Amanda Griswold, Mary Ann Schilling, Todd Wenzel

Youth Forward Wisconsin (YFW) gives communities the tools they need to implement a universal child savings account program. YFW was launched three years ago and is now in 13 counties. With this new round of grant funding, YFW will continue to host focus groups and create educational materials for Extension educators to share knowledge with residents and elected officials across Wisconsin.

Menominee Nicianak 4-H Club

Sofie Teller-Cloud

This project aims to provide youth participants with cultural knowledge and hands-on learning opportunities, which will serve as a historic preservation mechanism for Menominee tribal teachings. Ultimately, the project will be a resource for colleagues across Wisconsin who work with tribal communities.

Emerging Crops Field Day Series 2023

Steffen Mirsky

Emerging Crops Accelerator aims to diversify Wisconsin’s agricultural landscape through the promotion of alternative crops. With this round of grant funding, the program will host its first field day series at eight locations around the state. The field days will enable farmers and other agricultural professionals to learn more about alternative crops — although knowledge of alternative crops is low, interest is high.

Expanding Access for Water Quality Testing in Farm Worker Housing

Melissa Kono

This project aims to test drinking water in up to 140 wells that provide drinking water for farm workers across six Wisconsin counties. The project’s goal is to identify water quality issues that may pose health hazards to those workers through targeted outreach and water quality testing. As a result, the project can serve as a model for expanding water quality testing and outreach to underserved communities.

Growing Connections — Youth Employment and Garden Program, Milwaukee County

Leslie Quevedo, Katie Boland, Martin K. Ventura

This project provides youth participants with leadership opportunities around gardening and food production. With this new round of grant funding, Growing Connections will build additional garden beds, including at Kohl Farm, one of eight community gardens managed by Extension Milwaukee County.

Improv Community Academy: Building Civic Health

Sarah Schlosser, Jessica Beckendorf, Heather Quackenboss, Taylor Seale

This project utilizes theater-based techniques such as improv to develop new approaches to build communities’ civic health. With this new round of funding, Improv Community Academy (ICA) will expand into two new pilot communities. Ultimately, ICA will serve as a space to explore important issues and inspire action.

Harvest of the Month for Hmong/HMoob Audiences

Emily Latham, Krystina K. Yang

Harvest of the Month (HOM) is a statewide project that encourages families to consume more Wisconsin-grown fruits and vegetables. The goal of this project is to adapt HOM materials for Hmong/HMoob audiences in a way that honors the culture, language, and experiences of HMoob communities across Wisconsin — HMoob communities have a long history of agriculture production.

Prototheca Bovis Mastitis Investigation

Heather Schlesser

This project aims to identify if a particular pathogen, Prototheca, is present on Wisconsin dairy farms and, if so, develop educational materials about how to respond. Extension will collect samples from 3,500 animals over the course of a year to identify any seasonal differences. This pathogen is of particular interest, because there is no cure, which results in significant economic losses.

Food Sovereignty & Regenerative Agriculture Pilot Program for Native American Youth & Young Adults in Wisconsin

Lindsey Day Farnsworth, Josset Gauley, Jennifer Gauthier, Ariga Grigoryan, Barb Ingham, Steffen Mirsky, Sam Oschwald Tilton, Anne Pfeiffer, Joy Schelble, Kevin Schoessow, Claire Strader

This project aims to increase Extension’s capacity in order to better serve Wisconsin’s tribal nations as they work toward food sovereignty through a partnership between Extension and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University.

Juntos Wisconsin: Innovative Approaches to Attract and Recruit Diverse Educators

Adam Trunzo, Jasmine Carbajal, Erin Conway, Karleen Craddock, Carrie Edgar, Rachel Hart-Brinson, Sarah Hawks, Laura Huber, Pam Larson, Joe Maldonado, Bridget Mouchon, Ely Moya, Melinda Pollen, Leslie Quevedo, Joanna Skluzacek, Laura Vander Veen, MaryBeth Wohlrabe, Chelsea Wunnicke

The Juntos Wisconsin program engages Latino families to achieve academic success and make higher education a family goal. With this new round of funding, the program will hire for two coordinator positions, which will be dedicated to organizing workshops and a summer college experience, working closely with Extension educators.

Serving the Wisconsin Early Childhood Workforce: Multi-County Focus Groups to Inform a Statewide Response

Lindsay Weymouth Olson, Missy Bablick, Carol Bralich, Patricia Carroll, Anne Clarkson, Amanda Griswold, Sarah Hawks, Tracy Henegar, Robert Nix, Tierany Rugg, Pam Wedig-Kirsch, Hannah White-McGinn, Kula Yang, Hannah Zellmer

This project aims to better understand the professional development needs of early childhood educators by hosting focus groups in six Wisconsin counties. The focus groups will help inform future professional development for early childhood educators, which will be administered via Extension’s Family Engagement and Relationships program.

Accessible Camps

Rachael Lewandowski Sarette, James Boling, Karleen Craddock, Neil Klemme, Kayla Oberstadt, Heather Stelljes

This project aims to improve the accessibility of overnight camp experiences for youth participants across the state. The grant will fund the purchase of adaptive equipment and the development of marketing materials, which will highlight the newly available equipment.

Developing an Extension Train-the-Trainer Model for the Anti-Racist Parenting Program

Margaret L. Kerr, Anne Clarkson, Larissa G. Duncan, Yia Lor

This project aims to develop a train-the-trainer model for Extension educators to bring the Anti-Racist Parenting Program to families across the state. The program’s curriculum addresses racial inequities, specifically health inequities. This funding will allow the program to be delivered statewide.

Modernizing Extension’s Groundwater Programming and Training Opportunities

Kevin Masarik, Ken Genskow, Karl Green, Dave Hart, Abby Johnson, Janice Kepka, John Kriva, Guolong Liang, Maureen Muldoon, Michael Parsen, Kris Tiles

This project aims to develop online training for local officials about groundwater issues, a topic which is often not well understood. Specifically, the project seeks to modernize and standardize the delivery of groundwater education through four modules, including groundwater basics and emerging groundwater issues.

Co-Creating Educational Resources for HMoob Farmers

Kristin Krokowski, Kaitlyn Davis, Sam Oschwald Tilton, Stephanie Plaster, Addison Vang

This project aims to deliver relevant content to HMoob farmers across Wisconsin via short videos, the information of which will be determined by Extension educators working with an advisory committee of HMoob farmers.

Tribal Adaptation Menu-Education Extension (TAM-EE): Applying the Dibaginjigaadeg Anishinaabe Ezhitwaad Tribal Adaptation Menu in Building Extension’s Capacity for Tribal-Centered Climate Adaptation and Education

Cathy Techtmann, Ariga Grigoryan

This project aims to build capacity and cultural competency for Extension educators to assist tribal communities in adapting to climate change. The project will utilize and share Indigenous knowledge, which has historically been excluded from academic resources and research.

Developing a PFAS Network and Assessing Community Needs to Support Readiness

Chad Cook, Tricia Gorby

This project aims to build capacity to deliver outreach programs that proactively address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in local water supplies. A contaminant of concern for several years, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently placed greater emphasis on understanding sources of contamination and health impacts.