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“Hold Me Accountable” – Joe Gothard’s Interview with Simpson Street Free Press

by Cris Cruz and Leila Fletcher

Following an introductory press conference at Thoreau Elementary School, new Madison school superintendent, Joe Gothard, sat down for an exclusive interview with Simpson Street Free Press.

Although superintendent contracts usually begin in July, Dr. Gothard pushed for an earlier start date. He will now start on May 20. Gothard told us he wants extra time to work with interim superintendent Lisa Kvistad and the Madison School Board.

“I know the board, but when you work with a board, you get to know the board differently. I want to establish the way we're going to work together. And already this week it's proven to be a good decision,” Gothard said. [Read More]

Dane County Continues to “Suck the Muck” from Yahara River

by Leilani McNeal, age 17

Dane County is continuing its sediment removal efforts in and around the Yahara River. County Executive Joe Parisi and staff from the County’s Land & Water Resources Department recently highlighted this year’s projects during an announcement at Babcock County Park.

It’s all part of a five-phase plan called the Yahara Chain of Lakes Sediment Removal Project. The Yahara river is located in Southern Wisconsin, mostly in Dane County. It flows through and connects Lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegnosa. These lakes are central to life in Madison and Dane County, both for wildlife species and for people.

The Yahara River drains an area of about 536 square miles before entering the Rock River and flowing toward the Mississippi. The Yahara has a lot to do with the health of Madison’s lakes. [Read More]

Madison Students Revive Wisconsin History with Modern-Made Birch Bark Canoe

by Camila Cruz, age 16

Students are using modern technology to build a Native American birch bark canoe; in doing so, they're keeping a part of Wisconsin history alive. In a new class offered through a partnership with the local office of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Madison junior high and high school students built a plywood reconstruction of the boats used by Wisconsin tribes for centuries.

Gene Delcourt, a woodshop instructor, directed the class. He learned the skill from a German YouTuber and a master Ojibwe canoe maker. Delcourt previously studied the art of canoe making when he traveled to Lac du Flambeau in 2021 and learned from expert builder Wayne Valliere of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Delcourt had also built three canoes at a Monona alternative school [Read More]

It's Stormwater Week in Wisconsin! Have You Seen one of these Murals in Your Neighborhood?

by Josepha Da Costa

It's Stormwater Week in Wisconsin. Did you know that when rainwater runs off the land and enters a storm drain, it often empties into a nearby body of water and remains untreated?

This poses a problem because increased urbanization in Dane County is creating more runoff. Many surfaces in urban areas are either impervious or absorb very little water, like roads and traditional lawns. Stormwater Week is dedicated to raising awareness about stormwater, and these dangers.

Before heavy development, natural land absorbed 80-100% of rainwater. Currently, in urbanized areas, anywhere from 40-100% of water does not get absorbed. All of the leftover water flows over the land to the nearest drain, picking up pollutants and sediment along the way. Since the stormwater drains to local lakes and streams, so do the contaminants. Nutrients in the runoff, like phosphorus, can cause massive algae blooms that wreak havoc on our natural bodies of water. [Read More]

Higher Price for Water will Help Madison Replace Pipes

by Mariama Bah, age 16

Keep an eye on your water bill—it might increase soon. Recently, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission voted unanimously to increase Madison’s water utility rate by 18 percent, ultimately raising the monthly cost by $4.

The proposal came from Madison Water Utility, whose debt has risen to $245 million due to recent maintenance costs. They hope the price hike will cover the cost of replacing about 400 miles of old pipes without taking on any more debt.

With the new increase, the average monthly water bill will rise from $29.92 to $33.90. However, the rate for some members of the community will be subsidized. For 5,500 households and 2,600 renters who make less than half the median income, there is eligibility for an experimental program. For example, the utility would offset by $8 monthly bill for a family of three that makes up to $46,400 a year. [Read More]

Telisa Yancy, Newly Hired President of American Family Insurance Group

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 17

The American Family Group is big and has around 13,000 employees within all five of their companies. Telisa Yancy is part of that group and will start her term on the first of January of 2023 as president of the American Insurance Group. Not only will she be the first person of color to have that role, she’ll also be the first woman.

Yancy became a member of the group in 2009 and has worked her way up the ranks. From marketing director, to marketing vice president, chief marketing officer, chief marketing officer, then to the current role of the president of American Family Insurance Direct.

All of Yancy’s hard work hasn't gone unnoticed, both in the workplace and the community. Bill Westrate, the CEO of the company said, “She’s built strong relationships with our agency owners and distribution partners, and has clearly demonstrated the flexibility, resilience and innovative thinking needed to lead during an ever-changing business and economic landscape.” She has won many awards and has had many roles, like being part of the board of directors for both the Deluxe Corporation and the National Public Radio. Yancy has also been listed as one of the most influential Black executives on three magazines: EBONY Power 100, Savoy, and Ad Age’s Woman to Watch. [Read More]

When United Way’s Annual Campaign Succeeds, the Entire Community Benefits

By Desteny Alvarez and Josepha Da Costa

Earlier this year, student reporters from Simpson Street Free Press had a chance to interview several longtime change-makers and volunteers. Our interviews were part of United Way’s centennial celebration. Let’s just say we learned a lot about our community and about United Way.

The first thing we learned was that “The Power of Many, Working for All” is much more than just a slogan. Here in Dane County, our local United Way puts those words into action. For example, did you know that every dollar donated to United Way returns more than six times that amount in total community impact? That statistic alone demonstrates efficiency and solid results. And it’s worth a deeper look. [Read More]

State of Wisconsin Issues PFAS Warnings for Dane County Fisheries

by Makaya Rodriguez, age 17

PFAS, also known as (poly-fluoroalkyl substances), are man-made chemicals. They were used on clothing, carpets, non-stick pans, cookware, and as firefighting foam. PFAS are made to be stain and water-resistant. These PFAS chemicals are being found in many Wisconsin bodies of water, specifically in Dane County.

Anglers are being advised to watch out for certain fish in lakes and rivers around Madison waters, such as Starkweather Creek, Lake Monona, Wingra Creek, Lake Waubesa, and Rock River. In these particular areas, officials have found levels of PFAS, and recommend not consuming walleye, largemouth bass, crappie, and northern pike more than once a month. Additionally, the consumption of fish such as yellow perch, pumpkinseeds, and bluegills is not advised more than once a week. Taking these precautions into consideration will help avoid the accumulation of PFAS in the human body. Black Earth Creek has seen especially high numbers of PFAS in brown trout. This raises concerns as the creek flows northwesterly, from Middleton into the Wisconsin River. [Read More]

Local Observatory Renamed For STEM Pioneer Jocelyn Bell Burnell

by Mariah Justice, age 17

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another,” said Greek philosopher Plato. With the renaming event on September 7 for the Bell Burnell Observatory— previously the Oscar Mayer Observatory—Madison has a new facility for cultivating the exploration of astronomy.

The history of the Bell Burnell Observatory dates back to 1880, when the director of the Washburn Observatory, located on University of Wisconsin-Madison's (UW) campus, felt there was too much student traffic for the University to only have one observatory. This notion spurred him to personally fund the construction of the student observatory, which was then called the Student Observatory. However, as Madison grew, light pollution obstructed both the Student and Washburn observatories, rendering the facilities obsolete. [Read More]

Dane County Students Gather to Discuss Climate Change at Second Annual Conference

by Desteny Alvarez, age 17

For the second year in row, students from around Dane County will gather to address climate change issues. The second annual Dane County high school climate action conference will take place at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday, November 12.

The title for this year’s event is Gen Z: Meeting the challenge of Our Changing Environment. Local student members of the Dane County Youth Environmental Committee are helping plan the conference. A range of speakers and climate experts will make presentations and address topics of particular interest to young people.

“I learned a lot at last year’s conference” said Devika Pal, a student at Madison’s Memorial High School. “Now, I want to know more. I’m interested in learning what actions we can take to make a difference.” [Read More]

International Wood Sculpture Festival Honors the Legacy of Harry Whitehorse

By Elim Eyobed, age 13

A festival in honor of Harry Whitehorse, a late Ho-Chunk sculptor from Wisconsin, brought people from all over the world to our backyard. A group of Simpson Street Free Press reporters attended the event and watched some of the world's best woodcarvers create their masterpieces in real time.

The Harry Whitehorse International Wood Sculpture Festival was a week-long event showcasing woodcarving styles from various cultures. The festival took place at San Damiano Park in Monona, from June 14-22.

A semicircle of tents greeted guests arriving at the festival. The tents, which were designed based on traditional Ho-Chunk homes that used to be on the property, housed the artists in residence. In front of their respective work stations stood each artist’s national flag. [Read More]

Dane County Plans Solar Project at Former Landfill in Verona

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 16

Dane County is looking for help developing a solar energy project located near a former landfill in Verona. The site is on land owned by the county.

Dane County plans to install a solar array in the landfill near a site that includes a nursing home, food pantry, and a food service facility.

During the 1990s, natural gas methane from the landfill was used to generate large amounts of electricity. But today, the methane is declining prompting officials to find a better way to repurpose the area. [Read More]

Remembering Lou Conter: The Last Survivor of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor

by Max Moreno, age 11

The devastating events of Pearl Harbor took the lives of many. After the tragic event, survivors of the attack recounted their experiences. Unfortunately, the last living survivor of the attack passed away in early April 2024, at the age of 102.

Lou Conter was born in Ojibwe, Wisconsin, on Sept. 13, 1921, and was a quartermaster in the Navy. He was standing on the main deck of the USS Arizona battleship when Japanese planes flew over and bombed the ship. The explosion lifted the ship 30 feet out of the water as one million pounds of gunpowder stored below the ship were set off. Everything was on fire. “Guys were running out of the fire trying to jump over the sides and oil all over the sea was burning,’’ Conter said. In his autobiography “The Lou Conter Story”, Counter describes how he joined other survivors in battle and aided those that were injured. The sailors only abandoned ships if the senior surviving officer was certain that everyone alive was rescued. The USS Arizona wreckage still lies where it sank with remains of more than 900 sailors and Marines inside.

After Pearl Harbor, Corner went to flight school where he flew patrol bombers looking for submarines and enemy targets. He flew 200 combat missions in the Pacific. In the 1950s he was made the Navy’s first SERE officer, which stands for survival, evasion, resistance and escape. He spent the next ten years training Navy pilots and crew to survive if they were ever captured as prisoners of war. After 28 years in the Navy, Conter retired. In 2019, when he was 98 years old, he said he liked going to ceremonies that honor the people who died in the attack. “It's always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honors that they deserve,’’ he said. [Read More]

The Greek Demigod who Became the God of Medicine

by John Agbo, age 13

In Greek mythology, the most powerful gods, known as the 12 Olympians, could not bring back the dead. Only Asclepius, the god of medicine, could. However, Asclepius wasn't always a god; he was born a demigod.

Asclepius was the son of Apollo and Koronis, the god of the sun and a mortal, respectively. In some myths, his mother abandoned him as a child and left him to be raised by a dog and a goat. His father, Apollo, raised him and taught the young demigod the secrets of medicine. Asclepius was tutored by Cheiron, a wise centaur and the teacher of many legendary heroes who lived on Mt. Pelion.

In some myths, Asclepius married Hygeia, another god of health, but in others, she was his daughter, and he married Epione instead. Asclepius had two sons and four daughters. His descendants, known as the Asclepiads, also carried on his legacy of medicine. [Read More]

How Dane County Young People Can Protect Pollinator Species

by Siwoo Park, age 13 and Camila Cruz, age 16

Spring and early summer is a good time to think about helping pollinator species. And you can do this right in your own backyard.

The Dane County Land and Water Resources Department is encouraging people to act to support our local pollinators. There are several steps you can take that can help. These steps include planting native plants and providing the types of habitats that pollinators need to survive and thrive.

Student reporters from Simpson Street Free Press have been studying and writing about pollinators for several years. These species are essential to our environment because about 87% of flowering plants on Planet Earth depend on pollinators. [Read More]

Learn the History of Wisconsin's State Capitol Buildings

by Atisse Robbins, age 13

Did you know Wisconsin's first capitol was not built in Madison? The first capitol building, called the territorial capitol, was built by James Atchison in the town of Old Belmont. The capitol was built around 1836, using wooden pieces made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Today, the territorial capitol remains in Lafayette County as one of Wisconsin's historical sites.

The first state capitol was built under the supervision of James D. Doty and John O'Neill. Construction started in 1837, but it was not finished until 1848. It was expected to cost $40,000, but after it was completed, the expenses were $60,000.

Due to the growing state, the legislature of 1857 planed for the expansion of the capitol. Soon, the construction of a second state capitol began. The legislature established the second state capitol as they believed that the first state capitol was no longer adequate for the growing state. [Read More]

Event Highlights the Dangers of Vaping

by Elim Eyobed, age 13 and Ayelen Flores, age 13

Public Health Madison Dane County recently hosted an open-house event at Warner Park Community Recreation Center. The goal of the event was to raise awareness about vaping and its risks for young people. The event focused on the medical research and useful facts about vaping.

The creativity of local high schoolers was featured, in the form of three vaping awareness posters. The posters are a product of a two-year project that was a joint effort between Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC), UW-Madison Extension, and Madison teens.

At the event, the posters took center-stage, but were accompanied by various educational “stations” that highlighted what the students learned during the project. The first stop was a timeline of tobacco use, advertising, and legislation, dating back to 6000 B.C. and its use in ancient Native American communities for healing and tradition. The timeline included the creation of the first widely recognized vape, the Juul, and the recent spike in vape and e-cigarette use among youth. [Read More]

City of Madison Hires Local Journalist for Newly-Created Communications Manager Position

by Jules Da Costa, age 16

Local journalist Dylan Brogan was recently named the City of Madison’s new communications manager, a newly created position.

The new position was approved by the Madison Common Council in the 2024 budget. City officials say they created the job to support and better facilitate outreach to the public. They also hope to keep residents better informed about local government.

Brogan will oversee planning, organizing, and coordinating communications and will focus on reaching underrepresented residents, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. [Read More]

Theater Review: “What the Constitution Means to Me”

By Camila Cruz, age 16

Forward Theater’s production of “What the Constitution Means to Me,” directed by Jen Uphoff Gray, captures audiences with its unique approach to considering the United States Constitution.

Leading actress Colleen Madden of American Players Theater portrays playwright and protagonist Heidi Schreck in this autobiographical play. Madden opens the play by introducing herself as Heidi Schreck and explaining her connection to the Constitution. As a high schooler, Schreck competed in constitutional speech and debate contests, for which she earned college scholarships. At age 15, Schreck loved the Constitution and its study, and she felt deeply inspired by this “living document.”

The first part of the play revolves around 50-year-old Schreck “recreating” one of her high school competitions. She acts like her polite and invigorated 15-year-old self. But she also pauses her reenactment to comment on how her understanding of amendments and clauses has deepened through time and experience. [Read More]

Wisconsin Students Could Return to School in August Under New DPI Proposal

by Jules Da Costa, age 15

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is proposing a policy shift that would allow schools to start before the traditional September 1st date. Current state regulations prevent public schools from starting classes before September 1st. The suggested rule change would modify existing legislation, enacted in 2002.

In recent years, more school districts have sought to start the academic year earlier. In 2023-24, over 100 districts asked to start the school year early. Just two years earlier, only 18 districts submitted such waiver requests.

Some exemptions already exist. School districts can start school early for things like construction projects, unexpected school closures, or transportation issues. The new exemptions proposed by DPI seek to help schools trying to improve attendance and student achievement. Schools offering special support in math and reading might also qualify for an exemption. DPI would also expand the exemption to districts looking to address mental health issues. [Read More]

Wisconsin Passes $125 Million Bill to Address PFAS Contamination

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 17

Dangerous artificial chemicals like PFAS have polluted Wisconsin’s waters and towns for decades. The Wisconsin State Assembly recently passed a $125 million bill to control and test for PFAS contamination in groundwater across the state, yet it could also exempt polluters from liability.

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are synthetic chemicals in many industry and consumer items, including cookware and water-resistant products. These chemicals are difficult to remove from nature and do not fully decompose. They seep into groundwater and lakes, and ingesting them can lead to a weakened immune system, liver disease, and cancer.

The legislation would offer grants to local governments and private landowners, using $125 million from the state’s budget trust fund to remove PFAS in wells and water treatment plants. Under Wisconsin’s “Spills Law,” anyone who causes or owns a dangerous substance released into the environment must clean it up. However, Democrats say the PFAS bill protects polluters because, in some scenarios, taxpayers would have to clean up the mess. Furthermore, a legislative committee must approve the funding for the legislation before it can help Wisconsinites with contamination. [Read More]

Madison Schools and Libraries Host 2nd-annual ‘Batalla de los Libros’ Reading Competition

by Camila Cruz, age 16

Madison students in grades 4-8 recently met for a Spanish-language reading competition. The idea was to test student skills and knowledge in areas like studying, reading comprehension, and teamwork.

This event was the Madison Metropolitan School District’s second annual Batalla de los Libros. Teams of students from various elementary and middle schools in Madison gathered at Central Branch Public Library in downtown Madison. The event was sponsored by MMSD Department of Library Services.

Teams of students from four middle schools and nine elementary schools took part in the event. Parents were invited to attend. [Read More]

The Legacy of Madison's 'I Have a Dream' Scholarship Ball

by Camila Cruz, age 16

Last year was the first time I attended the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” Ball. Now, almost one year later, it’s the most important date on my calendar. Here’s why ….

Sponsored by Women In Focus, this annual event is a cherished Madison tradition. I had heard of it but had never been to the event. Talking with friends and siblings who had attended in the past made me excited and curious. I was looking forward to it.

I’m not here to tell you how much fun we had. We had a great time listening to music and guest speakers, talking with friends, and dancing. There was an amazing auction. The event was everything I imagined and more. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. [Read More]

W. Jerome Frautschi Donates to new Wisconsin History Center

By Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 17

A new Wisconsin Historical Museum will replace the current museum on Capitol Square by 2027.

Philanthropist W. Jerome Frautschi recently established an additional $10 million fund, making his total donation to the project about $25 million.

Jerome Frautschi and his wife, Pleasant Rowland, are based in Madison and have a history of giving back to the city. They have donated millions to countless city projects, including the Madison Youth Arts Center, the UW Hospital, the Overture Center, Boys and Girls of Dane County, and many more. [Read More]

Public Health Officials Issue PFAS Updates for Dane County Fisheries

by Amelia Pearson, age 13

In 2023, there was an updated per-and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) warning enforced by the Dane County Public Health due to concerns about the 2023 fishing season. PFAS are harmful human-made chemicals that are used in a vast variety of products from firefighting foams to something as simple as fast-food wrapping.

One major concern centers around PFAS found in fish. Due to this, the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) and Department of Health Services (DHS) suggest a limit on the number of certain fish people should consume, such as Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Walleye, and White Bass, which was recently added to the list. The DNR and DHS recommend only one meal including any of these four types of fish a month.

Due to the outcome of the fish sampling in 2020, the DNR heavily recommended new PFAS-based fish consumption advisories for Yahara Chain waters in Dane and Rock county. There was also a raised level of perfluoro octane sulfonic acid (PFOS), a type of PFAS found in various species of fish collected in lakes Monona, Kegonsa and Waubesa. [Read More]

UW Madison Basketball Sensation A.J. Storr Leaves Mark On and Off the Court

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 16

Wisconsin Badgers basketball player A.J. Storr has become a key contributor to the Badgers’ 2023-24 lineup. Not only does Storr have an impact on the court, but he also has an impact on the community.

A.J. Storr’s heart and passion for basketball were ignited by his mother, Annette Brandy, and his sister, Ambranette Storr. Both of them played basketball at a sensational level. Storr’s mother played at Clemente Community Academy, and his sister embarked on her legacy by becoming one of the top scorers in Illinois.

Storr was a solid player at the collegiate level, averaging 8.8 points per game for St. John's Red Storm during his freshman year. He was also named to the 2023 Big East All-Freshman Team and Big East Freshman of the Week three times. Despite earning all the accolades, Storr felt like Wisconsin was a better program and a great fit for him, so he transferred. The program felt like home, and he truly admired how Wisconsin Badgers coach Greg Gard appreciated his unique skill set. [Read More]

Wanted: Professional Airline Pilots

by Max Moreno, age 11

In fall 2023, Madison College will reach new heights never seen before with the implementation of its first aeronautics program, training students to become pilots. In partnership with the Wisconsin Aviation Flight School, Madison College will give their students an opportunity at a flying career through a new professional aeronautics certificate. After two years of ground courses and flight training, students will be certified as flight instructors. By completing the 1,500-hour requirement they will be eligible to become an airline pilot.

According to a Cap Times article, the program comes at an important time.``Pilot staffing issues have become increasingly dire as the demand for air travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels,” said Chris Johnson. With his knowledge as a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and to promote the field of aeronautics, he has helped develop the program at Madison College. There is a lack of flight training programs in Wisconsin. Due to this, ticket pricing will increase and there will be a shortage in air travel, to which Johnson responded by creating the Madison College certificate to increase the number of instate pilots.

The training includes flying a Cirrus SR20, a small propeller-powered plane that Johnson mentioned takes a lot of skill to maneuver. It also includes using virtual reality simulators, challenging students safely with obstacles that they may face during flight. This course will require 20 hours per week and offers night classes to allow more accessibility. The tuition costs around $90,000 to $100,000 for two years, about half the price of a four-year program. [Read More]

Monona Mural Is Beloved Local Example of Public Art

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 13

Wisconsin boasts a plethora of stunning and remarkable murals throughout the state, each distinguished by the unique messages they convey. One compelling illustration is the "Water, Land, and Sky" mural located in Monona.

Positioned conveniently on West Broadway, opposite South Towne Mall, this mural is accessible to the public at all times, allowing visitors to capture photographs with it. Crafted in the summer of 2017, it is the result of a collaboration between the city of Monona and Dane Arts Mural Art.

The "Water, Land, and Sky" mural serves as a tribute to the beauty of Monona and its vibrant community. Local artist Rhea Swing breathed life into this masterpiece, with the active involvement of Monona residents, including those from Winnequah Elementary, the Monona Senior Center, and members of the Ho-Chunk Nation. [Read More]

Wisconsin Joins Lawsuit Accusing Meta of Harming Children's Mental Health

by Kelly Vazquez, age 18

The state of Wisconsin joined a lawsuit in October against Meta, along with 33 other states, alleging that the company’s apps harm children’s mental health. Meta Platforms Inc., formerly known as Facebook, is a technology company that has created applications that have found massive success, such as Instagram and Facebook, which have three billion and 1.35 billion active users, respectively. But the company has also found itself in hot water multiple times.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul joined forces with a bipartisan group of attorneys general from multiple states in a legal action filed in federal court in California. The lawsuit claims that Meta has deployed addictive features that negatively impact the mental health of young individuals, and contribute to the mental health crisis among the nation's youth. Additionally, the lawsuit says that Meta has violated federal law by regularly collecting data from children under the age of 13 without obtaining their parents' consent.

In a statement, Kaul expressed the importance of keeping children safe online. He explained, “Adequate protections should be in place to protect kids from harms associated with social media, and parents must receive accurate information about potential dangers to their kids.” [Read More]

Unlocking Opportunities with a Madison Library Card

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 13

The city of Madison is home to nine public libraries, as well as a mobile library, the Dream Bus. While the Madison Public Library system still lends out books, movies, CDs, and even video games, it has grown to offer a variety of additional opportunities and resources to Madisonians. The key to accessing these opportunities within Madison libraries and the South Central Library System: is a library card.

There are multiple ways to sign up for a library card. For example, sign-up can be done online or at any Madison Public Library location. You will need an ID and proof of your current address. The first card is free and then you can request free replacement cards.

The Madison Public Library website has a list of 30 things a cardholder can do with their card, such as checking out movies, books, computers, DVDs, ebooks, current newspapers, magazines, and many more interesting things. Students and other individuals can reserve a study room to work on homework or school projects. The rooms were made for people to use as a tool to meet with friends or group work members and study. [Read More]

Follow a Simpson Street Road Trip to Wisconsin’s Driftless Area

by Samuel Garduño and Camila Cruz

A large group of student reporters from Simpson Street recently took a summer road trip to Wisconsin’s famous Driftless Area. This is an area of western Wisconsin that was never flattened or even touched by the glaciers. The region is hilly with lots of cold-water streams and beautiful scenery. For us, it was a one-day adventure meant to enhance our understanding of topics we already cover, such as pollinator species and birds of Wisconsin.

We started from our newsroom at South Towne Mall in Madison. In our caravan there were 12 students and four editors.

As we drove west through Mt. Horeb, our eyes were quickly drawn to the many trolls and troll-like sculptures that line the main street of this charming Wisconsin community. Always curious about such things, we decided to stop on the way back to take a closer look at Mt. Horeb and its trolls. [Read More]

Exploring the Artistic Depths of the James Watrous Gallery

by Camila Cruz, age 16, and Ayelen Flores, age 13

At Simpson Street Free Press, we are always on the lookout for art. Recently, student reporters from Simpson Street took a trip to see the James Watrous Gallery at the Overture Center for the Arts. Just like writing, art is a form of discipline and expression. Both of these draw out individual imagination and creativity to convey meanings that reach deeper than the surface.

So, on a bright and sunny summer day, our reporters arrived at the Overture Center at 4:30 p.m. and made our way up to the gallery. The James Watrous Gallery is located on the third floor, where one of the gallery staff greeted us at the entrance and gave us an overview of gallery highlights and ongoing exhibits.

The Watrous Gallery is a program of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. The gallery showcases the work of local artists and, more generally, artists from Wisconsin. We had the opportunity to view featured collections by Colin Matthes and Alison Gates, which were on display from April 28 to July 23. [Read More]

UW-Madison Researchers Use 3D Printing Technology to Develop More Efficient Electric Motor

by Sedona Afeworki, age 15

Four researchers from UW-Madison have achieved a groundbreaking feat by developing an electric motor using 3D printing technology. According to The Wisconsin State Journal, this prototype incorporates a "higher-percentage silicon electrical steel," which effectively reduces energy loss.

The prototype takes on a circular shape with prongs designed for winding wires around them, allowing for the generation of an electrical field, also known as a stator. The most significant innovation in the design lies in the prongs themselves, featuring intricate patterns of thin geometric lines aimed at minimizing energy loss. In contrast, the conventional method for producing such stators involves a lamination process that rolls coils of electrical steel.

The team responsible for creating this motor prototype hails from both UW-Madison and England. It comprises FNU Nishanth, a post-doctoral research assistant at UW-Madison, and his advisor, Eric Severson, along with Alexander Goodall, a Ph.D. student at the University of Sheffield in England, and his advisor, Iain Todd. The collaborative effort began in July 2020 when they met at a conference and recognized the potential to jointly develop an entirely new type of motor. [Read More]

Exploring the Award-Winning Restoration of the 1868 Brisbane House in Arena, Wisconsin

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 13

The historic Brisbane House in Arena, Wisconsin, is renowned for its builder's past. William Henry Brisbane, known as an "abolitionist," faced significant scrutiny when he embraced this cause and subsequently relocated from his Southern home state.

Born on October 12, 1806, Brisbane began his journey as a cadet at the Norwich Military Academy in Norwich, Vermont. He later inherited 33 enslaved individuals from his family. While residing in a South Carolina house with his slaves, Brisbane underwent a transformation in his beliefs, recognizing the inherent wrongfulness of slavery. He made the courageous decision to set his slaves free, a move that garnered heavy criticism and disdain from his community. Nonetheless, this opposition did not deter him from persisting in his human rights campaign. To escape judgment and pursue his cause, Brisbane left South Carolina and settled in what is now Arena, Wisconsin, embarking on a new chapter in his life.

Brisbane harbored grand plans to construct a house where he could reside and eventually provide accommodation for others after his passing. The house was built in the "I-style," a design Southerners transported with them when they migrated North. Characterized by its towering structure and an interior adorned with numerous large windows that facilitated excellent ventilation in the summer, the house also featured tall doors. Remarkably, the house still stands in good condition. [Read More]

Wisconsin Trade Exams Now Available in Spanish, Paving the Way for Inclusivity and Opportunity

by Sandy Flores Ruiz, age 17

Wisconsin Trade Credentialing Examinations are now offered in Spanish, as of July 11, 2023. This will allow native Spanish speakers to take all trade exams in Spanish, which will eliminate a language barrier to obtaining a credential, and help them achieve a higher earning job.

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services is investing in the expansion of the state’s workforce by creating changes like this, offering people the opportunity to be certified in a trade. The exam will help native Spanish speakers to get one of the state’s 240 professional credentials. Those include plumbing, contracting, electrical work and so much more. Many are excited about this new major advancement as it will allow more Hispanic people to be able to work in different fields.

However, people worry that this new advance will only benefit a few community members because of the following steps after the exam. In the state of Wisconsin, one in five Latinos do not speak English at all or do not speak it well. After entering those higher-level positions, many will struggle to succeed if the only language companies offer is English. Some question whether Wisconsin is creating false hope for people entering a workforce in which their native language is not spoken. [Read More]

Johnny Davis: A Rising Star's Journey from La Crosse to the NBA

by Jules Da Costa, age 15

Wisconsin basketball standout, Johnny Davis, recently finished his rookie season and it has been a rollercoaster.

Johnny Davis was born on February 27, 2002, in La Crosse, Wisconsin to Sarah and Mark Giles Davis. Davis’ father was also an NBA player. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 79th overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft. He played professionally for 13 seasons and retired in 1999. Like his father, Johnny Davis plays as a small forward and shows a lot of potential in the position.

Davis attended La Crosse Central High School. During his high school career, he played both football and basketball. In his first basketball season as a freshman, he earned a Division Two State title. In his junior year, he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game which led him to win the La Crosse Tribune Player of the Year award. By the time he had graduated, Davis also held the title of La Crosse Central’s highest scorer with 2,158 career points. [Read More]

Dane County Land Purchase Protects 14 Acres Along Black Earth Creek

by Kaleab Afeworki, age 11

Dane County recently purchased 14.6 acres of land along Black Earth Creek to preserve its “beloved natural resources,” according to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Black Earth Creek, which runs through the village of Black Earth, Wisconsin, is a trout fishery that provides residents with a place for outdoor exploration. The property not only features a wide variety of green valleys but also serves as a trail connector for the Black Earth Creek Trail.

Parisi announced the proposal in March 2023, the Dane County Board approved a purchase price of $11,000 per acre the next month. This new purchase will work to preserve cropland and trout streams, along with expanding “outdoor recreation opportunities for Dane County residents and visitors,” Parisi added. [Read More]

Free Native Plants Available for Schools and Community Projects

by Camila Cruz, age 15

Is your school or community organization looking to install or expand a native plant garden? Many people these days look for ways to help the local environment, and planting native plants is a good way to start.

Well, you’re in luck. The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department is offering free native plants. The department is currently accepting applications from schools and community groups in Dane County. For more information about this program or to download the application, visit the Land & Water Resources Department website.

Native plants can help improve water quality and wildlife habitat. Plants that are native to Wisconsin tend to do better in our local growing conditions. Native plants have deep root systems, and this provides many benefits. For example, they reduce stormwater runoff and help protect nearby bodies of water. These plants are also more resistant to drought and disease. [Read More]

New Projects and Dedicated Volunteers Help Expand Dane County’s Newest Park

by Alan Cruz, age 17

On a recent summer evening, Simpson Street Free Press student reporters headed just south of Madison toward Oregon and Anderson Farm County Park. Pollinator gardens and the unveiling of public art attracted our attention to the park because we’ve been writing about those subjects this summer.

Established in 2014, Anderson Farm County Park is the newest park in the Dane County Parks system. At 310 acres, this is also one of our bigger parks. Anderson Farm Park is a mix of woodlands, agricultural fields, and a small prairie that was started in 2016. While the park is still being developed, new projects and new features are shaping up throughout this park.

We got to the park in time to see the unveiling of a new sculpture, which is located near the Union Road picnic area parking lot alongside the bike path. The sculpture honors the legacy of Gary Kalscheur, a long-time youth baseball coach and strong supporter of Anderson Farm County Park during its early days. [Read More]

Wisconsin Among the States Rejecting $10.5 Billion PFAS Settlement with 3M Company

by Alan Cruz, age 19

Attorneys General from 22 states, including Wisconsin, are denouncing a proposed lawsuit settlement that they argue would absolve manufacturing giant 3M from responsibility for the widespread contamination of water supplies with hazardous 'forever chemicals.'

The landmark $10.5 billion agreement aims to fund chemical testing and the installation of water filtration systems over three years. However, 3M doesn’t admit liability. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, have been found in aqueous firefighting foam and are by-products of numerous manufacturing processes. These persistent chemicals have been linked to various health issues, including cancer and reduced birth rates.

The settlement reached in June was initially perceived as a victory for public well-being. However, under an indemnification clause, the agreement could shift blame to water utilities, and require them to pay some of the $10.5 billion. [Read More]

Four Consecutive “Supermoons” Visible in Wisconsin this Fall

by Dayanis Torres Cruz, age 13

In the coming months, there will be a lunar eclipse, a blue moon, and multiple supermoons. Supermoons are brighter and are seven percent bigger than the average size of a full moon because the moon is closest to Earth during these times.

There will be a blue supermoon on August 30th, which is very rare. It will be the second full moon of the month. The term "blue supermoon" was coined in 1883 after the Krakatoa Volcano eruption, as debris in the sky gave the moon a blue appearance.

The full harvest supermoon will occur on September 29th, following the fall equinox. During this time, farmers can work at night due to the moonlight illuminating all the crops. [Read More]

Dream Ball Raises Scholarship Funds for Local Students

by Cristian Cruz

One of Madison’s signature events will take place on January 13th at The Wisconsin Masonic Center.

The goal is to raise funds for college scholarships, which are awarded each spring.

For students at Simpson Street Free Press, this annual event is a tradition. We attend every year, and we look forward to it. The “I have a Dream” Ball is widely known as a truly fun event. There is good food, lots of interesting people, and a real sense of community and purpose. We think that’s because the people who attend know they are contributing to a great cause. [Read More]

New Land Purchase Will Protect Wildlife and Wetlands in Dane County

by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 14

Groundswell Conservancy is a not-for-profit conservation group that recently bought 34 acres of wetland habitat in Dane County. The land is in the Town of Dunn near the Lower Mud Lake Natural Resource Area. This purchase will help groundswell achieve its mission of protecting wildlife habitats in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.

Wetlands like the one recently purchased are areas that are flooded with water that can either be permanent or seasonal. These wetlands help manage floods, which is critical for the city of Madison's lakes. The landowners who sold the property wanted these lands to be protected.

Groundswell has to manage the property regularly to supply permanent habitat for ducks and other wildlife. The financing to obtain the land comes from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and a U.S Fish and Wildlife grant, which Ducks Unlimited administers. [Read More]

Wisconsin Launches Online Map to Track PFAS Pollution Across the State

by Alan Cruz, age 19

Wisconsin environmental regulators have taken a significant step in addressing the issue of toxic “forever chemicals” by unveiling an innovative online tool. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) introduced an interactive map in October designed to track the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.

The newly launched online map combines data from various sources, including drinking and surface water monitoring programs, health consumption advisories, and a comprehensive database of contaminated sites. By consolidating this information into a single accessible platform, the DNR hopes to help people find out about how pollution is affecting them and their community.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already identified these compounds as harmful at levels currently undetectable by existing technology. These synthetic chemicals, known for their resistance to environmental degradation, have been connected to severe health concerns such as low birth weight, cancer, and liver disease. [Read More]

La Follette eSports Team Wins the High School State Championship

by Amare Smith, age 19

Similar to traditional sports, eSport involves players who like to compete and play games – except, eSport involves video games! The La Follette eSports team has been at the school for a little over two years. The Lancers eSports team competed in the high school state championship and recently won the competition. The game played was Super Smash Bros, a video game where players pick a character and fight against each other. Matthew Wright, the team captain, made a last-minute decision to choose a character other than his favorite, Captain Falcon, for the sudden death battle.

The CapTimes had a discussion with Wright on the State Championship and how he got involved with the team. Wright first heard about the group from word of mouth from his classmates and eventually met the coach, Mr. Pellien. Super Smash Bros was an addictive game and Wright progressively improved his skills with different characters as he played the game. Wright enjoyed attending practice and telling his teachers about it. He was an excellent student and didn’t fall behind in any of his subjects in school. To Wright, eSports was like a dream come true.

Competing in the state championship at Madison College was very special to Wright. The year before it happened, he went solo and was happy he made it to the top 16, but the team didn’t win first place. Either way, it was a great learning experience. He was happy to see the community and watch other people compete. Most importantly, Wright enjoyed his first time participating in a competition. This year, his second time around, he enjoyed how his team worked together and was able to secure first place. What Wright learned from his experience was the importance of teamwork and how it helps everyone improve their skills and communication. [Read More]

Open Meetings Violation Complaint Filed Against Belleville

by Sydney Steidl, age 16

A concerned citizen has accused the Village of Belleville of illegally meeting behind closed doors to consider and approve the sale of the Village’s former library in violation of the State’s Open Meetings Laws. The complaint, filed with the Dane County District Attorney’s office in early August, contained 10 separate allegations of open meetings violations.

The sale of the 6,300-square-foot building to a developer for $20,000 was approved as a result of closed meetings, despite the building being appraised at $210,000 only a year ago. This substantial difference has led many local residents to wonder what happened during the meetings and question the integrity of the deal.

One citizen, Jeff Larson, said he believes that other potential buyers would have offered more favorable terms for the library, and that this sale was not in the public’s best interest. “If the board believes this is such a great deal for the Village and its residents, why did it work so hard to hide information and prevent the public from sharing any input until after the decision was already made?” Larson said. [Read More]

City of Madison Continues to Make Progress in Composting Programs

by Mariama Bah, age 15

Citywide composting in Madison has had a challenging history, but supporters are still trying to make it a reality.

Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter typically used as fertilizer as it is high in nutrients for soil. Organic matter such as fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, and paper can be thrown into a pile and turned into compost. In turn, compost cuts methane emissions from landfills, conserves water, and reduces personal waste.

Madison has tried and failed to implement food composting programs. The city attempted to install curbside pick up services twice, but these programs quickly came to an end as food scraps were contaminated with non-organic materials like children's toys, coat hangers, and towels. [Read More]

New Transfer Options Available for Wisconsin Nursing Students

by Melanie Bautista, age 16

Madison Area Technical College (MATC) and the University of Wisconsin - Madison have come to an agreement to let transfer students from MATC with earned associates in nursing to earn a bachelor's degree at UW-Madison.

The program BSN @Home was created in 1996 to address shortage of bachelor-degree nurses. According to David Wahlberg at the Wisconsin State Journal, “Wisconsin could face a shortage of about 11,000 nurses by the year 2030.” The agreement between both colleges will allow a smoother transition into online courses for the nursing program and for current nurses who want to pursue a higher position in the medical field. With COVID-19 occurring, nursing jobs have been in high demand; 10 percent of nursing positions have become unoccupied.

The highest role in healthcare, nursing assistant, has a vacancy of 17.2 percent, higher than previous years. Turina Bakken, a provost of MATC, says, “ This new nursing agreement adds to that legacy as we work together to meet the critical nursing demand in our communities and create meaningful career options for our collective students.” This makes the nursing pathway much smoother. [Read More]

Land Purchase in Western Dane County Provides Public Access to Morton Forest

by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

A generous gift from a private landowner made 22 years ago is prompting new conservation action in Dane County.

In 1999, 120 acres of Morton Forest were deeded to Dane County by Steve Morton, a retired chemist, and environmentalist. The land is about 2.5 miles south of the Town of Mazomanie. To create better access to Morton Forest, Dane County now plans to purchase 65 acres of land in the Village of Black Earth.

Similar to Morton Forest, this new piece of land in Black Earth has amazing vistas, as well as small farmlands, a stone quarry, and rock outcroppings. [Read More]

When Exploring Dane County’s Sugar River, Keep and Eye Out for Invasive Species

by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 14

The Sugar River, also known as The Upper Sugar River Watershed, is located in Dane County and flows all the way down to the Rock River.

The Upper Sugar River Watershed Association works to protect the river from invasive species that can harm or push out native species and damage the ecosystem. Many rare and endangered native plants found in the river and its nearby wetlands are threatened. Most wetland animals depend on these native plants for food and shelter.

Some native species can disappear if a watershed loses its healthy wetlands. Recreational uses of wetlands include trapping, fishing, bird watching, and nature study. Healthy wetlands can help with keeping the water clean and safe for wildlife. Healthy wetlands also help control and prevent floods. [Read More]

Land Purchase Creates New Ice Age Trail Park

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

One of only eleven National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail highlights unique beauty seen on a thousand-mile footpath in Wisconsin. The trail stretches from St. Croix Falls in Polk County to Sturgeon Bay in Door County and travels through 30 counties, including the County of Dane. That is where the county and both the Cities of Madison and Verona have proposed to pay $2.7 million for land that would fulfill connections missing in the trail.

This parcel is about 40 acres and is located west of Madison in a quickly-growing area that is covered by a forest containing mature oak. It is “a wonderful example of glacial geology,” according to the Director of Land Conservation for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, Kevin Thusius.

“The glacier ended right here and it left behind glacial till—a lot of rock and debris that created a nice hill,” he said. This parcel of land includes examples of landscape features like kettle ponds—where a piece of ice was left after the glacier melted away. A study completed in 2019 said the trail is used by about 2.3 million people each year, a number that has certainly “increased significantly since,” according to Thusius. [Read More]

Martin Luther King, Jr “I Have a Dream”
Event Supports Local Scholarships

by Josepha Da Costa, age 16

The annual “I Have a Dream” Ball is scheduled for January 15, 2022. This year’s event will again take place virtually. As always, the I Have Dream Ball will raise money to fund scholarships for local high school seniors and college students. And, as always, this cherished Madison tradition is organized and sponsored by the dedicated volunteers of Women in Focus.

My name is Josepha Da Costa and I am a junior at La Follette High School. I am also a teen editor at Simpson Street Free Press. I have attended the Women in Focus Ball with my Simpson Street colleagues several times over the years going back to when I was in 6th grade. [Read More]

Two-year-old Red Panda Finds New Home at Vilas Zoo

by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

There is a new red panda that has come to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. His name is Bandit and he is a very active two-year-old.

After two months of processing, Bandit arrived at the zoo from Ohio in early June. He had to undergo a few health checks and quarantine before he was allowed to be introduced to the public.

Tai, the female red panda at the zoo, and Bandit are slowly starting to get to know each other. Bandit is showing his curious personality by climbing trees and exploring his new home. Bandit was brought to Madison to join Tai after Tarei, another red panda at the zoo, died last year at the age of 19. [Read More]

Where Is the Sugar River?

by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 13

The Sugar River runs throughout southern Wisconsin and ultimately feeds into the Rock River in Illinois. The start of its main branch is located in Mount Horeb in Dane County, close to Madison, Fitchburg, and Verona.

One of the Sugar River’s biggest feeder streams is Badger Mill Creek. The creek also begins in Madison and runs through Verona and Fitchburg. It finally reaches, and merges with, the Sugar River near Highway 151.

The Sugar River’s other note-worthy tributaries are the West Branch of the Sugar River and Mount Vernon Creek, which help make up the Upper Sugar River Watershed. The Upper Sugar River Watershed encompasses the section of the Sugar River that lies upstream of Bellville, Wisconsin. The whole watershed reaches across about 500,000 acres, or 760 square miles, of southern Wisconsin and the northern part of Illinois. [Read More]

UW Field House, a Madison Landmark — by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 14

The UW Field House is a landmark building initially built in 1930. It serves as the home to the UW volleyball and wrestling teams. Other UW teams are included as a part of the Field House family, such as the basketball, boxing, and track and field teams. [Read More]

Memorial High School Builds New Art Wing — by Moore Vang, age 15

For the past year and a half, Vel Phillips Memorial (VPM) High School, along with other high schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), has been in the process of renovation and will be finished by the start of the 2024-2025 school year. These renovations are part of the Madison schools' $317 million 2020 Capital Referendum. So far, Memorial has already finished some parts of construction throughout the building such as the music wing, bigger windows in classrooms, and many other features. As a student at VPM, the most exciting addition to me by far has been the new and improved art wing, and here is why. [Read More]

$2 Million Project Adds 22 Acres to Whitetail Ridge Park — by Sol Saray, age 10

Have you heard about the $2 million project in place to expand the parks on Madison's Northside? [Read More]

How Madison Became Wisconsin’s Capital City — by Jason Medina Ruiz, age 11

Madison was founded in 1836 and became Wisconsin’s state capital in 1838. Wisconsin was introduced as a state in 1848, the same year the campus of the University of Wisconsin was established in Madison. The downtown area of Madison was created on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. The city was also named after James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. Madison resides on Ho-Chunk land, and they call it Taychopera or Dejope. This translates to “land of four lakes” in the Ho-Chunk language. [Read More]

Dane County Pursues Sustainability with New Solar Projects — by Yani Thoronka, age 16

In November of 2020, County Executive Joe Parisi announced new efforts regarding conservation and sustainability. The goal is for Dane County-owned facilities to run solely on renewable energy. In his proposal, Parisi spoke of converting about 90 acres of county land near Femrite Road, in Cottage Grove into a solar farm. This new solar farm is almost double the size of a solar field at the Dane County Regional Airport that opened two years ago. [Read More]

Don't Be Afraid of Every Coyote You See — by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 14

Have you ever seen a coyote in a Madison park? Well you're in luck because it might not be real! These coyotes are made out of plastic and faux fur; they are also a new addition to the Canadian goose management program. [Read More]

Play Ball! New Youth Baseball League Launches in Madison — by Josepha Da Costa, age 17

On a sunny Saturday in early July, several Simpson Street reporters headed to Elver Park to watch a baseball game. It wasn’t just any game though; it was a little league game played by kids from all over Madison, including one of our own staff writers, Max Moreno! [Read More]

New Wisconsin River Bridge Will Improve Local Recreation — by Camila Cruz, age 14

In 2022, construction on a $4 million recreation-only bridge, connecting Dane County and Sauk City will begin. This bridge will go over the Wisconsin River, creating a beautiful sight. This bridge will replace a 100-year-old Sauk City rail bridge. The old bridge was taken down in 2018, because of its little use and problems with spring flooding. [Read More]