Former Educator Uses Retirement to Continue Improving the Environment for Kids

For some, retirement is a time for rest and relaxation—a time to do the fun things that you never got to do while you were working. For others, it’s an opportunity to give back, using your talents and expertise in a different way. This is the path that Joel Stone decided to take. Working as an environmental educator since 1975, Stone served as the resident coordinator and director of the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center, as well as the recycling education coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

            When he retired, Stone wasn’t ready to give up his environmental work, and he knew he wanted to focus on finding ways to offer the same experiences for children that he had as a kid. Although he admits there are numerous places he could have accomplished his goals, he chose the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

Having watched the nonprofit grow from its inception, Stone feels a strong connection to the organization’s work and the way they do it. “I’m a firm believer in Leopold’s land ethic, which the programs here faithfully follow,” Stone says. He mentions the staff’s dedication, knowledge and creativity in making ALNC successful. “From just an idea, they now have facilities and programs in Monona and Black Earth,” Stone says. Recently, the Monona location opened the most comprehensive climate change exhibit in the Midwest. It’s a great addition to a great program, according to Stone, who spent more than eighty hours in 2011 doing mostly mechanical work to help install the exhibit.

More than just improving the environment, the Aldo Leopold Nature Center also teaches students of its importance. “Through their programs, students of all ages acquire an awareness and appreciation of our environment and develop the knowledge and skills to be responsible stewards of our earth,” says Stone.

Stone helps out with all aspects of the center at both of their locations. In Monona, he helps to build and install storage units, and performs general maintenance and minor repairs. He also assists with the set up, clean up and parking for major events. In Black Earth, he works as a land steward. Nearly every week he helps build and maintain trails and structures, manages natural habitats and invasive species, as well as the general upkeep duties of mowing lawns and shoveling snow.

For Stone, it’s about making Madison a better place. “We are all part of one community,” he says. “By providing places and quality instruction to learn about our impacts and interrelationships, we can help groups and individuals improve and sustain the quality of our environment.

And he encourages everyone to help fulfill the mission of a great place full of great people. “Whether it’s a few hours or a few days, you’ll be satisfied, and can go home knowing that you made a difference.”

To learn more about the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, its programs and how you can become involved, visit

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