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Chad Thomack

Chad Thomack

Chad Thomack, Environmental Educator, has been a staff member of the Urban Ecology Center for 8 years.  Chad received a biology/wildlife degree from UW Stevens Point and has been teaching about nature ever since.  His hobbies include outdoor adventures like kayaking, mountain biking, trail running and cross country skiing, as well as exercising, reading, playing video games, journaling and gardening.

Friday, 19 May 2017 10:32

Digging into Curiosity

It was one of those freakishly warm days in February when the temperatures rose into the low 70s. I was working with a group of excited, but respectful, 2nd graders from Franklin Pierce Elementary. We were focusing on one of the most important of nature’s resources, soil. Inside we learned how the FBI (fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates) change sticks, leaves and other organic material into soil. Then we headed outside for some exploring.


We made our way in the warm sun to a multitude of dirt piles we use for adding soil to our park. Each student was given a spade as their scientific instrument. Soon the students were digging in the dirt more enthusiastically than a dog digging for a bone, looking for those FBI. It did not matter that they were not finding anything right away. Just having this tool in their hands was enough for them. Soon though we made our first find, ancient rocks (gravel) that we decided could be a meteorite! There’s nothing like a little imagination to spark the curiosity of young scientists. Suddenly one of the students yelled, “I got a worm! I got a worm!” With mud-coated hands the student proudly showed his find.


All the students flocked to the spot quicker than crows mobbing an owl. They all couldn’t wait to dig in that exact same spot. I explained that there are many worms out there and if we all dug in the same spot someone was going to end up with a face full of dirt. We continued our digging in different spots. Worm after worm, meteorite after meteorite, we kept exploring. Their excitement could not be contained.  
The students dug and dug all morning long until we had to give up our spot to the other half of the class that was exploring the park. We could have spent all of our time there, no doubt.


As I listened to the stories of discoveries made, reflected on how all of this excitement came from just from digging in the soil. Just giving students the chance to dig and use a tool was enough for them to puzzle out what can be discovered in nature. How simple, how engaging, and how amazing nature is when you just get out there and play, as well as get a bit dirty!


The teacher could not have been more pleased with his students and all the things they discovered that day. I also learned something; it is not the fancy vocabulary students learn while here or the concepts we think children should know that builds a land ethic. It is the chance to explore without worry and to get their hands a bit dirty while connecting with our planet.

Friday, 21 October 2016 10:48

Reflection of Summer Lunches

Even though we are a few months into the school year, I can’t help but reflect on my summer as a camp leader. Think of this as a preview of what your friends and family could look forward to next year.

The theme that sticks out most for me and my summer was my lunches. Yep, I said it, lunch. Last year I ate lunch outside at over 20 different places in Milwaukee. I am not talking about your local restaurants. I am talking packing up a lunch and driving, biking, hiking or paddling to our lunch destination.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 13:58

The More You Look, The More You See!

Riding my bike down the Hank Aaron State Trail for my first day of a 6 week stint of teaching at the Menomonee Valley Branch I am filled with pride. Crossing the Menomonee River I see ducks and geese congregating on the waters enjoying a morning bath. Continuing on I can't help but notice all the activity in the surrounding industrial landscape providing jobs and sustenance to the local community. Men and women alike make their way through the passage taking in the fresh air and beauty that surrounds them, or so I hope. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:00

A Story of Gratitude

This story is one of gratitude, one I hope all our volunteers will have the chance to read.  I share this story with you today because I feel so thankful for all that our volunteers do for the Center.  If you are a volunteer, please feel free to share it with other volunteers!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 08:26

A Day of Discovery

There are moments in a naturalist’s career that are magical. You feel like you are in a famous science documentary. The narrator in your head starts to say, “That’s when he discovered the most amazing...” but is cut off by the children surrounding you, giggling with excitement. As you snap back to reality, you think about just how lucky you are to be able to share your passion with these future environmental scientists. I had one of these moments during a new summer camp called “Animal Extravaganza.”

The children gathered in the Community Science room after a full morning of learning about mammals and for some well needed lunch. Now it was time to take our studies out into Riverside Park.

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 16:05

Go Outside and Play: Paddle

May day, May day… that is right, it is May 1st; the first day of canoe and kayak lending at the Urban Ecology Center. We are fully prepared at all three branches for people to borrow equipment. For those early bird paddlers, here are some recommendations of my favorite places to canoe on the Milwaukee River and beyond.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013 15:34

Beat the Cold....When We Have Snow

Ah yes, nothing like the crispness of a cold winter day! The fresh cold air in my lungs wakes up the mind and body. Silently I ski across a bluff over looking Lake Michigan in the glow of a winter moon as my dog runs next to me. I pause for a moment to take in complete silence; I feel as though I am in the deep woods of northern Wisconsin but am only a few miles from downtown Milwaukee.

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