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Home Away From Home

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Home Away From Home

As a child, my bed was flush up against the window in my bedroom. That window provided me with my first encounters with nature.

In winter, I was so mesmerized by the snow-capped trees and gently covered ground, I would stare out the window for hours. It became a sort of game for me to decipher when the deer would pop out from beyond the trees.

In summer, the breeze would come through the open window and at night the crickets would put me to sleep.

In the springtime, I’d eagerly await the flowers and the smells that would come from the forest.

In the fall, I’d wake up with sunlight peeking through the blinds, and when the blinds were fully opened, the changing of the leaves captured my breath.

Our family home was across the street from Havenwoods State Forest in Milwaukee, but as a child my bedroom window was the closest I’d get to camping.

Twenty years later, I have curiosity and a love of nature that would never go away.

Last month with the help of the Urban Ecology Center, I received the opportunity to go camping, real camping – with tents, sleeping bags and fire – completely immersed in nature that I once looked at only through my bedroom window.

My 6-year-old son, Elijah has been participating in Menomonee Valley’s Young Scientists Club (YSC) for almost a year and it’s been a really great experience for both of us. The branch is within walking distance from our home and it’s truly become a home away from home and an oasis for us city dwellers.

When the offer to go on an overnight camping trip with the YSC (parents, too), with tents and sleeping bags was presented by the staff, I couldn’t resist. The itinerary was beautifully laid out with activities from sweep netting to a campfire, complete with songs, stories, s’mores, a nighttime hike, sharing circles and canoeing.

In the days leading up to our adventure, I couldn’t stop thinking about how excited I was to finally experience camping. As we left, I enjoyed talking to the staff about what to expect. We were given tents and my face lit up with excitement. With a few instructions and help from some seasoned camper children, we got our tents up. We put the rain fly on backwards but Mr. Michael came over to help us and explained the importance of the rain fly.

After we successfully put up our tents, we gathered as a group and made dinner, which included a lesson on how to build a fire. We walked along the trails at the Blue Heron Wildlife Sanctuary and studied the flowers along the way. We ended our one-night camping trip with a roaring fire, classic campfire songs, games, nature poetry and of course s’mores.

Waking up in the tent that I helped set up was a satisfying feeling. The early sun light shined into the dome, making the tent hotter than I anticipated for sleeping outside, but the warmth was welcomed after a cool night.

All in all, the camping experience was a worthwhile learning experience for my entire family. The thoughts I developed outside my bedroom window as a child were fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams and I have the Urban Ecology Center to thank for that.


Many thanks to Raina J. Johnson for sharing her thoughts on this, her first camping trip courtesy of the Menomonee Valley Young Scientists Club. Members of the Club and their parents took an overnight camping trip to western Wisconsin.

Urban Ecology Center

Urban Ecology Center

At the Urban Ecology Center, we get people of all ages outside and active every single day!  We foster ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood.  Read more about us here!

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