Introducing the Great Lakes Quests – an Upham Woods and Wisconsin Sea Grant Collaboration

June 24, 2020 – A project developed collaboratively by Upham Woods and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute is now featured in the Wisconsin Coastal Guide. This collaborative work, the Great Lakes Quests, is a series of story map guided tours created using ArcGIS StoryMaps. The Great Lakes Quests project aims to increase awareness of natural, cultural, and historical coastal issues both locally and statewide by increasing access to the relevant and on-going coastal issues for both local and non-local participants – helping develop Wisconsin’s identity as a coastal state. This project aims to engage the entire state of Wisconsin and bridge virtual and in-person experiences using a novel approach to place-based learning. Each Great Lakes Quest guides participants on virtual tours of a coastal city, featuring natural, cultural, or historical assets of the city. Examples of these tours include exploring ecological restoration projects in Wisconsin Pointplans to protect the sand dunes in Kenoshabeach restoration projects in Racine, and fishing heritage in Two Rivers. The quests contain interactive educational components including links to external content, inquiry-based questions, and quizzes. Each correct quiz answer reveals a clue that spells a final word that’s significant to the coastal city.

A screen capture of the Great Lakes Quest: Protecting the Kenosha Sand Dunes, using ArcGIS StoryMaps

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the educational system in Wisconsin and the country. There is a need to provide valuable virtual and remote-learning experiences, so students can continue their education during the pandemic with as few hindrances as possible. The Great Lakes Quests address this need during the COVID-19 pandemic by serving as educational opportunities that connect participants to real places in an enriching way. These virtual experiences allow place-based learning to continue from a distance, providing access to faraway lands without physical participation. They will continue to be available to anyone with internet connection and support place-based learning after the COVID-19 pandemic resolves. A tutorial of how to participate in the Great Lakes Quests is available on YouTube at

Upham Woods’ virtual resources are developed following the North American Association of Environmental Education’s Guidelines for Excellence. In this time of remote programming, usability and depth of meaningful content are essential to the user’s experience. These two key characteristics from NAAEE are designed to engage participants in a productive experience. The hope is that the Great Lakes Quests will help users discover the depth of knowledge concentrated along Wisconsin’s coastal communities. Upham Woods is committed to community science and is a member of the Guidelines Trainers’ Bureau.

The Great Lakes Quests were developed by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center as part of a project to enhance the Wisconsin Coastal Guide, an interactive map that supports coastal heritage tourism along the Great Lakes coasts of Wisconsin. Enhancement of the Wisconsin Coastal Guide is funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office for Coastal Management through the Coastal Zone Management Act.

Dr. Justin Hougham
Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension Natural Resources Institute
(608) 254-6461