Here is what friends of PhenoCultureWisconsin,LLC say about us!
We can’t say enough about Peter Watts and PhenoCulture Wisconsin! We built a new home in Madison, WI adjacent to a retention pond on heavy clay soil. We had an extremely rainy spring and our landscaping mulch kept washing away into the pond. We needed to do something about the erosion but didn’t want the typical money and energy wasting lawn solution that most landscaping companies proposed. Not to mention that they also suggested a broad spectrum and harmful herbicide to kill the existing grasses. After talking to Peter we realized that a naturalized prairie was exactly what we wanted. He is so knowledgeable! We will have a beautiful and relatively easy-care yard that is not only wonderful to look at but also welcoming to the birds, bees and butterflies that we so want to attract.
One day he came out and removed the existing sod, prepared and amended the soil for planting. Before winter set in he came out and spread a grass and flower seed mixture. In spring he planted hundreds of new plants to speed up the process and get a great start on what we know will be a very welcome addition to the ambience of the neighborhood. We’re guessing it won’t be long before we have some neighbors knocking on our door wanting the contact information of our landscaper. And now we’re looking at the front yard and planning some changes with the help of PhenoCulture-Wisconsin.
Kim and James Mullen-Kuehl
I want to recognize and show our appreciation for the contributions Mr. Peter Watts has made toward the implementation of our Lincoln STEM Community Garden. As part of developing a rich STEM experience for all our learners at Lincoln Elementary STEM we worked through the 2017-2018 school year to develop a community garden to serve as an outdoor classroom. Peter Watts donated his time and expertise in our early planning process to ensure that the construction plans, quality materials, and learning environment were best fitted in providing a rich experience for our learners. He used his vast background and experience with his program at Riverside Middle School to guide us in the planning process, donated materials, and made recommendations for community sponsors. Without his guidance we would not have achieved such success in getting our program up and running. His contributions to the students of the Watertown Unified School District have made a significant impact and given many a love for the sciences. He is a major asset to any team and we wish him luck as he continues to share his expertise and assist in developing community gardens in area communities!
Lincoln Elementary STEM Teacher
I met Peter Watts at a historical re-enactment, where he had a reputation for doing things “right”. I next came across him while hiking on the bluffs above the Mississippi River where he was leading his students in search of evidence of Pleistocene human and animal habitation.
After seeing Peter present a program at the North American Voyageur Council, I immediately booked him to speak at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. He did a first-person interpretation of an Eighteenth Century natural philosopher, discussing his collection of skulls, bones, and fossils from a pre-Darwinian perspective. He lectured in the round as would have a university professor of the time. It was such a success that I invited him back. He then presented a program on the folklore of weather with live musical accompaniment. He is a superb public speaker and I hope he will return to the Museum with something new.
With all the time Peter has put in as a science teacher, he still finds the energy to grow vegetables, raise chickens, keep up his Nineteenth Century house and hunt in the style of a colonial woodsman. Peter Watts is a gentleman and a scholar.
Wisconsin Historical Museum
Through the years, Peter has built very strong roots with our students here at Riverside Middle School. As a result of these roots, he has become a fan favorite due to his wealth of knowledge in many different areas including science, life and relationships. Student’s not only leave his classroom more knowledgeable about science, but as good global citizens. He has an amazing way of getting students to become better people - who treat the world around them in a more globally responsible manner. It is evident that students truly enjoy Mr. Watts because of the time and effort he reserves for each student. I believe students enjoy him because of his teaching methods. His storytelling-style makes learning fun and enjoyable for all. Quite frankly, he makes learning fun and memorable. It is through his passion that he continues to push students to strive to be their very best.
What you might not know is the joy he gets from solving problems and teaching his craft to students and adults. It’s truly inspiring to see him tackle a new initiative or program and make it a success. A great example of this is our Riverside garden. Peter had a vision and proceeded to develop and then expand a successful garden through multiple grants which he took the initiative to write.
Riverside Middle School Counselor
In recent years, Peter Watts’ successful efforts to organize and implement lessons supported by the Riverside Middle School garden – a project that he spearheaded to great acclaim- reflects a desire for Peter to witness growth in his students’ understanding of sustainable agriculture and healthy eating habits. Peter has inspired his colleagues by undertaking many school and departmental leadership roles as well. He has led curriculum revision efforts and has written many grants to support the science curriculum and aforementioned garden project. As of the writing of this letter, Peter has secured over $50,000 in grant funding over the past 20 years. Clearly he is a dedicated professional who has sacrificed personal resources for the cause of science education.
Peter is progressive in his application of new tools and resources to assist in the delivery of the science curriculum, such as his recent efforts to incorporate STEM around 3D printing and hydroponics. As someone who has worked with Peter for several years in my role as Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I can attest to his focus on professional development and quality teaching of both students and adults. Peter consistently demonstrates the desire to sharpen his skills, network with others and contribute to a greater cause. These examples are among the many contributions to Riverside Middle School and the Watertown community that produce strong evidence of Peter’s commitment to a high level of professionalism.
David Vitale, Ph.D.,
Watertown Unified School District
In 2015, three non-profits; Greener Oconomowoc, Sprouting Together and Tall Pines Conservancy Land Trust partnered together to form a local Farm to School Alliance. It is widely known that Peter Watts is a local “school garden hero” running one of the most successful school garden programs in the state. Our Alliance asked Peter if he would be willing to share some of his experiences and offer guidance. He graciously invited our team to explore both his indoor interactive classroom and his outdoor school garden classroom at the Riverside Middle School. We were impressed by the scale, design, health of the plants and by the way he worked the school’s garden into the science curriculum.
Peter spent hours with our team offering the lessons learned after years of experience writing successful grants and finding common ground with his colleagues and school administration. Peter’s passion for connecting children to the land inspires others to follow his path. His strong commitment to incorporating “hands-on” experiences with land, food and nutrition into the school curriculum was exactly what we were looking for. We drew two conclusions: Schools need committed nature-based educators like Peter to achieve success in school garden programs and, most importantly, educators need to hear Peter’s story and become as inspired as we were.
It is essential to “educate our educators” on the numerous intrinsic values school gardens can provide for our youth. Peter’s passion for making gardening accessible to all people was contagious, so we asked Peter to be the keynote speaker at our first “Farm to School Summit” in spring of 2017. The Summit was well attended by educators from many schools in our region.
Peter’s “So, You Want to Start a School Garden?” presentation offered the essential confidence-building tools needed for our educators to start their own school gardens. This included tips on where and how to find funding through grants. Several in attendance requested his expertise in the following weeks. Thanks to Peter, the momentum in our community continues!
Peter also believes his students should support area community efforts. He brought in his expertise to help create a small micro park on some vacant land along the Rock River owned by the City of Watertown. He helped with fundraising, grant writing and involved his students in many aspects of the design, growing and planting. This park has now become a pilot project encouraging other communities to use as a template. Peter takes the lead, grabs the ball and success follows time and time again. Our communities need to find ways to support and cultivate outstanding leaders like Peter.
Connie Holzmiller- Sprouting Together
Jill Bedford- Tall Pines Conservancy
Deb Turner- Greener Oconomowoc
Kim Herro - School Board/ Oconomowoc Area School District