EAGLE RIVER - Sparks flew in front of Valencia Carthen's eyes, sparking inspiration to take back home.
"The first thing you learn as a brand new teacher is steal, steal, steal the best ideas," Carthen said.
The Milwaukee Washington High School principal was getting ready to unpack her school district's first fab lab equipment Friday. Thursday, she and 12 other Milwaukee Public Schools members checked out several Northwoods labs with 3D printers, laser engravers, and routers.
"I had a small idea, which I thought was a big idea, but just going on this tour... The sky's the limit for these kids," Carthen said.
The tour through Northland Pines, Three Lakes, and Florence happened after a conversation between State Representative Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver. The two agreed small and big districts need to work together.
"A lot of times people think the rural schools just won't have access to different resources, but they've shown us what they can do with what they have," Dr. Driver said. "So, now my folks are going back and we're all thinking like, OK, we can do this."
State Representatives Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander), Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz), and Felzkowski made a point of visiting Three Lakes. In 2014, it became the first K-12 district in the state to get a fab lab.
"This is where future education is heading," Three Lakes senior Jack Connelly said.
Connelly and his team showed off their creation to lawmakers and school representatives. They also explained their goal of forming a business.
"I have no doubt in my mind that any student is capable of replicating what we've done here," Connelly said. "The reason I know that is because I didn't think I could do this six months ago."
Since Three Lakes' successful launch two and a half years ago, about 150 school districts statewide have built or signed on to build fab labs.
"We're can-do people," Felzkowski said of the Northwoods' leadership in starting fab labs. "And maybe that's because we've had to be. We don't have everything at our fingertips. The challenge was put out there and we've risen to the challenge."
It's thanks largely to a 2015 law that offered districts $25,000 matching grants through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to buy equipment.
"It's not only going to help northern Wisconsin, but it's going to move education forward as a state," Rep. Felzkowski said. "So that a kid in Northland Pines, a kid in downtown Milwaukee, a kid in Brookfield all have the same opportunities and the same ability to learn and have that successful life."
Learning from the labs takes a strong curriculum, which is something Northland Pines is just working out in its first year with a lab.
"If we can come up with some good ideas from Milwaukee Public Schools, if they can come up with good ideas from us, it's definitely a success story," Pines Administrator Dr. Mike Richie said.
Valencia Carthen knows her district will face the same challenge, but one Milwaukee is ready to face thanks to some new ideas shared from the Northwoods.
"Sometimes the best ideas are in the rural areas, sometimes the best ideas are in the urban areas, but you have to learn how to share," Carthen said.
State Representatives Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) also joined the tour.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - President Donald Trump will begin his Independence Day weekend on Friday with a patriotic display of fireworks at Mount Rushmore, an event expected to draw thousands where masks and social distancing aren't required as coronavirus cases spike across the country.
Trump is expected to speak at the event, which has issued 7,500 tickets to watch fireworks that he says will be a "display like few people have seen."
CRANDON - The Forest County Humane Society works around the clock to help animals find forever homes. But taking care of those animals during their stay doesn't just take a lot of time; it takes a lot of money, too.
The shelter got a helping hand, thanks to a $35,000 grant from the ASPCA. It's part of an initiative to help brick-and-mortar shelters improve their animals' quality of life.
Shelter director Angie Schaefer says that money paid for 20 new cat-condos, fencing for two new dog yards, and several other much-needed supplies.
"We're small, we're in a small community, so to raise that kind of money to get these items would have been quite a task. For them to step in and do that for us is amazing," said Schaefer.
Schaefer said the extra yards will allow dogs to spend more time outside and socialize with each other.
If you're interested in volunteering or donating to the humane society, visit its website for more information.
- The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans' self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.
With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors and local officials have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.
MADISON, WI - Cigarette smoking rates have dropped since Wisconsin's Smoke-Free Indoor Air Law went into effect 10 years ago.
In 2008, before the law passed, 20% of Wisconsin adults smoked cigarettes. By 2018, the rate had dropped to 16%. High school youth cigarette smoking rates dropped from nearly 21% in 2008 to nearly 5% in 2018.
State cigarette taxes were also increased during this time period and contribute to this reduction.
"Wisconsin is breathing easier today thanks to this law, but we know there are many people in our state who still smoke," said DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm. "We urge smokers to take advantage of the programs available to help them to quit, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people who smoke are believed to be more susceptible to the virus, and can become severely ill with it."
NORTHWOODS - Wisconsin's lakes have a lot to offer their visitors. But some, like aquatic invasive species, are unwelcome due to the damage they can cause to native ecosystems.
There's a growing effort to prevent, contain, and control the spread of these aquatic invasive species, especially this holiday weekend. As part of the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program, volunteers will be stationed across popular boat landings, doing inspections and educating boaters on how to properly clean their boats.
"Any type of holiday weekend, especially the fourth of July when there's a lot more boat traffic, there's an emphasis on getting more awareness out there," said DNR recreation warden Justin Bender.
Aside from volunteers, most boat landings also have information posted on aquatic invasive species and the laws regarding boat cleaning. Citations for not properly cleaning your boats typically run $200-300.
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