LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Centuries ago, the Native Ojibwe tribes sometimes had to rely on maple trees to survive the winter. Making sugar is an ancient art passed down through the generations. Learning this skill can teach more than you might think.
"Patience is something that's in short demand with our young people today. Everything is done as fast as we can get it done... We have 4G phones, everything is as fast as we can do it. But our culture teaches us to be patient," said Wayne Valliere, a language and culture instructor at Lac du Flambeau School.
That lesson is echoed in the slow and steady drip of the sap into a bucket. Slowly but surely the sap runs from the trees. It takes patience as much as knowledge to turn that sap into sugar. Middle school students in the culture program at Lac du Flambeau's school are learning the basics of an old tradition.
"Me and Max are the two youngest ones in Flambeau that know how to make maple sugar," said 7th grader Dallas Hart, "It's something I always wanted to try…. I'd like to do it every year so I can have some maple sugar, and give some to the elders."
"This is a piece of our history," said a language and culture instructor Greg Johnson, "By giving this gift back to our youth, it's not only showing Ojibwe sustainability, but we're also teaching them about the environment,"
"There's also science and mathematics," adds Valliere, "We incorporate that into our culture…That's how our culture stays alive, it's living... It's not put on a CD-ROM and left on some dusty shelf in some library. Our culture is alive and well in Waswagoning, and it lives in our young people as you can see."
In the middle of the sweet steam from the maple sap, are lessons on the delicate balance of nature. Maple sugar once kept the Ojibwe alive in the leanest time of year. Like the environment, making sugar requires careful attention.
"If we burn it, it'll taste like burnt sugar and we won't want that," says Max, "Cause if we burn it there's no going back."
"We are planting the seed of positive identity in our young people," says Valliere, "They're learning their language, they're learning their history, they're learning what their ancestors did 500 years ago, as well as 100 years ago, as well as 50 years ago."
Today the Anishinaabe process for making sugar has evolved with the times. A propane tank brings the thickened sap to a solid in under an hour. Still this modern convenience doesn't spare them much of the hard work along the way.
"They hauled a lot of firewood out of the woods, they worked very hard... They were quite tired at the end of the day. So was I and so was Greg! And we kept going. Because the sugar waits for no one. It's on grandmother earth's terms."
"I did not know how the processes went before I started sugaring…. and now that I do, I can probably do it by myself," said Max.
"We know that the footprint that we're leaving as educators is a good one," says Valliere, "So that our ancestors that left that by the road for us, they're happy. They're happy today because the footprint we're leaving is a good one."
RHINELANDER - Building a robot may seem like a pretty lofty summer camp goal, but teens in the Northwoods love the technological challenge.
It's all part of a summer camp that's heavy on science and social interaction.
13-year-old Sean Timm says the eight day robotics camp at Nicolet College mixed the best of both worlds.
"I like technology a lot more than I do outside stuff," Timm said. "It's kind of nice to have technology like drones to bring me outside. It's really fun."
Camp Instructor, Mike Wojtusik has many years of experience as a technology education teacher and robotics advisor. He wants kids to see the importance in learning these skills.
"The kids are getting experience from a mechanical engineering side, electrical engineering side, design, prototyping," said Wojtusik. "We try and cover as much as we can about the whole entire system."
Learning about robotics isn't the only thing these students do. Some of them are also exercising skills they'll need in the future.
"I think it's a great experience for them to understand what really goes on in the real world as far as a career," Wojtusik said.
Certain careers that often require teamwork.
"Challenging part is working with a team because you don't always agree on the same thing," said 12-year-old Louis Malais. "When you build a robot you do the most teamwork than I think in any other job."
As their final project, students design and build their own version of a remote control robot.
They are required to work in teams to sketch a vision, make prototypes and design a working model with aluminum.
"It's not just you know operating a piece of machinery, it's learning how that machinery is put together," Wojtusik said.
Students are piecing together machines and building future careers at the same time.
"If I were to get an opportunity to do something like this in the future, I would definitely take it," Timm said.
Throughout the course of the camp, students were exposed to prototyping, brainstorming, modeling, safety and sketching.
The last day of the robotics camp is scheduled to be Thursday, July 28.
WISCONSIN - Mud, debris, and damaged property still cover parts of Northern Iron County after a storm ripped through there more than two weeks ago.
The lack of money to repair certain areas is largely keeping the rebuilding process from getting started.
That's why the Federal Emergency Management Agency came to Iron County Tuesday.
It surveyed the damage because of its severity and the extreme costs to fix.
"Really if it's beyond the scope of local jurisdiction, and even the states that respond," said FEMA External Affairs Officer Troy Christensen.
Wisconsin Emergency Management currently believes the damage caused by the mid-July storm is around $38 million across 10 counties and Bad River Reservation. Around $15 million of that happened in Iron County.
FEMA relies on local government like the ones in Iron County to help it assess damage.
"They have sights selected so they will be showing us a lot of these sights." Said Christensen.
Those sights included multiple towns, Saxon Harbor, and crumbled highways.
This week Iron County gave its damage estimates to FEMA.
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