I am a relatively new Community Programs Educator at Washington Park. We do much more than I ever expected!
What do I do? Here are some examples.
Roughly a month ago we taught the principle of cause and effect to a group of five year olds from Fernwood Montessori School in Bay View. As they came into the building for their second visit three weeks later, many of them kept saying, “I remember you! We played tug of war and you lost!”
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.
It was 5pm on a late fall, Friday evening and I was enjoying a cup of hot chocolate at the Menomonee Valley branch’s reception desk. A group of our regular youth visitors were running around the building as it was too dark outside to explore Three Bridges Park and they were having too much fun to go home. It was a quiet evening, perfect for kids to just hang out and be themselves in our safe community center. I couldn’t see anybody around, but I could hear little feet moving fast.
I love fall! We begin a new school year with excited students, perfect sunny days and beautiful changing leaves. Fall is also when I get to teach a class that brings kids into the water to look for macroinvertebrates. It’s one of my favorite classes to teach.
The program begins with the students tucking in their shirts and climbing into waders to explore the Milwaukee River. We hand them kick nets and bins to hold the benthic invertebrates they find. As we head to the river, there is nervous excitement. It is fun to watch the first groups get their bearings in the water.
On a line of rope tied between two trees in Washington Park, six brown paper bags jumped in the wind. Two-year-old Lilli Morby stood with her father, Josh, and watched with wonder as a member of the Urban Ecology Center’s Citizen Science team took down one of the bags, put in a hand and pulled out a calmed songbird. The researcher weighed and banded the bird, identified its gender and a new family memory was made.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a NATURE RANGER! Do you know a child, 5 years or older, who would like to be part of our new Nature Ranger after school program at the Urban Ecology Center?
This summer and fall, bring your inquisitive 8 – 12 year olds to Driven to Discover: Outdoor Inquiry Camp at Riverside Park. This 10-week program guides kids through the process of discovering answers to their own questions while being active outdoors.
“Miss Katie, I love nature!” “Nature is the best!” I absolutely love hearing these exclamations as students dance on Washington Park’s Band Shell, climb fallen trees or dip nets into the lagoon. As my first year of teaching students in our school program comes to an end, I begin to reflect on everything I have learned during this year.
“Get out your hard hat! It’s time to put some materials to the test. Stretch’em, soak’em, crush’em – use what you learned to construct something (a bridge, a bird nest or a building) to solve a problem.”
This is the description for one of our school programs for second graders. We use the Three Little Pigs story as a reference. Students get to know about the properties of certain materials, then they are divided into groups to build up sturdy enough structures out of cups so as to withstand the wolves’ huffs and puffs.
Spring is always a time of excitement and of release. As the snow melts and the birds return, I feel a sense of relief from the cooped-up restlessness of winter. The students I work with seem to have the same experience, though of course in a more exaggerated way. After a winter in often windowless classrooms, they are as wiggly physically as I am mentally.
The typical structure of our classes with the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project, our school program, is to do one or two short activities inside before heading out into the park.