State Senator Jennifer Shilling, Teen Visits All State Parks, Math Knowledge Linked To Achievement

Air Date:
Heard On Central Time

State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling joins us to look back at the year in politics and discuss her priorities for 2017. This year, a senior at Oconomowoc High School set out to visit all of Wisconsin’s state parks in under one hundred days. She shares her adventures and favorite places with us. A new study shows that children’s math knowledge in preschool is related to later achievement, but not all types of math had an equal effect. A UW psychology professor discusses the findings.

Featured in this Show

  • The Year In Review: Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling

    Wisconsin’s Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Jennifer Shilling, joins us to take a look back at 2016 and to discuss her priorities for the next session.

  • Oconomowoc Teen Visits All Wisconsin State Parks

    An Oconomowoc high school senior shares her journey to all Wisconsin state parks in just under one hundred days.

  • Every Wisconsin State Park Before Senior Year? No Problem!

    Michelle Anderson didn’t have any plans for the summer, at least not until the Oconomowoc High School senior was scrolling through a friend’s Instagram feed and saw a picture of one of Wisconsin’s state parks.

    “I never knew that Wisconsin could look like that. I always thought it was really plain, really boring,” Anderson said, “And then it just was like, ‘OK, let’s get ’em all done!”

    And she did, in 98 days.

    The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources app was Anderson’s starting point for plotting out her visits, along with a visitors’ guide her mom got her. With that information, she created a board with all of the parks and their locations so she could keep track of which she had visited and to group those together that could be done in a single trip.

    Two of Anderson’s first park visits were to Pike Lake in the Kettle Moraine State Forest and Aztalan because they were close to home.

    Getting to parks in other corners of the state meant a lot of driving. Anderson estimates it took about 5,000 miles to visit Wisconsin’s 68 state parks. On some trips, like a three-day swing, she had travel buddies. Other times, she went solo.

    Visiting a park can mean different things – from spending a whole day hiking to just a quick stop. Anderson’s trips were a mix.

    “Depending on what was there,” she said. “If there was lots of stuff, lots of trails, and like really pretty scenery, I would be there like quite a lot. But then again, I was … on a deadline, kind of … So some of them I would just stop for a little bit, but others I would spend a while and just enjoy my time.”

    At each park, though, Anderson had a system. She would get a map, and take pictures of the sign, trail and any other features. The pictures were important so she could look back on them later and remember what made them special.

    Anderson enjoyed the variety of sights in the state parks, but the waterfalls were among her favorites, she said.

    Willow River “has honestly the prettiest waterfall,” she said. “It’s in like this gorge, and when we were there, the sunlight was hitting it really pretty, and it was just awesome. And you could even go behind the waterfall, which was so cool.”

    For hikers looking for a rugged outing, Anderson said Mill Bluff fits the bill.

    “It’s just a whole bunch of stairs, and you hike all the way to the top, and they were so steep, and there were so many, and I didn’t realize that, ‘Man, I am out of shape,’” Anderson said. She added that she’s in much better shape now, after her project.

    Now that Anderson has achieved her goal of visiting all of Wisconsin’s state parks once, she is thinking about which ones she might like to get back to.

    “I would honestly go to any of them on the west side and way up in the north,” she said. “I did not get enough time to spend at those places, just because they’re so interesting, and you have all that natural water.”

    Anderson has been sharing her photos from her trips on social media and said people have told her that seeing the images inspires them to think about getting out to the state parks themselves. That makes her happy, since that’s how she got the idea herself.

    The project gave Anderson the chance to learn a lot of different things, including how to be a better driver, she said. But also why it’s important for the parks to be cleaned and maintained regularly and that it’s easy to take natural beauty for granted when it’s in your own backyard.

    Of course after accomplishing a significant goal like visiting all of the state parks, it’s natural to think about what comes next. Are the national parks in Anderson’s future?

    “Oh, heck yeah. Definitely,” Anderson said. She just has to make sure her car can make the trip.

    But even though she looks forward to seeing parks further afield than her home state, Anderson is very happy where she is.

    “I like where I am, and I really love Wisconsin. And I like being here, and I enjoy it,” Anderson said, adding, “I used to think it was just dairy land, you know, that’s all I’ve ever known, was this. But it’s actually really cool,” Anderson said.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • Jennifer Shilling Guest
  • Michelle Anderson Guest