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Displaying items by tag: Nature
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 11:17

The “Heartbeat” of a Community

It was another sunny day in the Menomonee Valley. Delma placed the stethoscope against a gnarly tree branch in Three Bridges Park. Her eyes grew wide and she shouted “I can hear it! The tree has a pulse!”

Several minutes, and several tree pulses later, Delma approached me and said, “My grandfather in Mexico used to place his ear to the ground and say he could hear the heartbeat of the earth. Is it true that the earth has a heartbeat? Now that I’ve heard the pulses of the trees I think he is right.” It was one of the most profound and beautiful statements I have ever heard, and it came from a seventh grader.

When I was first hired as an Environmental Educator seven years ago the Washington Park branch was just getting started. I had spent the last four years teaching in a variety of environmental education centers where my outdoor classroom had been a forest.

My new outdoor classroom was not a forest but a city park that had a lagoon with a very distinct “stinky end,” some nicely spaced trees and grass. All I could see were the challenges in not having decomposing logs to roll over, undergrowth to play camouflage or a gully of rocks; in short, all the things I was used to having when teaching a class.

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:16

Toddling Into Nature

Reflecting on all my experiences, I’ve really come to appreciate the pure joy and curiosity preschool-aged children readily exhibit in response to outdoor experiences. I can always count on pockets full of leaves, rocks, sticks and other treasures that kids bring to show me with exclamations of delight! One of my favorite things to do with preschoolers is to flip over these large, black pads that we have in Riverside Park to reveal the invertebrate life hidden beneath. The kids help me point out scurrying centipedes, hustling isopods and wiggling worms.

I came to the Center two and a half years ago as a summer camp intern. As my role has changed from environmental educator to volunteer coordinator and community health evaluation coordinator, I have found myself reflecting on a question that has repeatedly come up in the various roles I’ve held: What is environmentalism?

It didn’t take long in my role as an educator to notice that how I engaged with nature wasn’t universal. Activities I loved as a child, like catching bugs or sitting quietly in the woods or playing in snow, while appreciated by some, could be terrifying, disgusting or down right boring to some of my students.

Friday, 27 December 2013 12:22

New Year, New Land

I knew the call would come eventually, I was just hoping it would take a little longer to happen. When it did come, however, I was incredibly thankful that it left an opening and was not final.

“Ken, we’ve decided that we need to sell the property and have some interested buyers who have offered some very attractive numbers to us,” she said, “however, we’d love it if there was a way for the Center to have it. We cannot give it away but we might be able to give you time. How long do you think you would need to make a run for it?”

Friday, 15 November 2013 15:51

Fall Colors: How and Why?

I recently read Matt Flower’s awesome post entitled “The Beauty of Fall Trees” where readers got a great overview of the magic of fall colors.  After reading his post and looking at his stunning photos, I got excited to do a “piggy-back post” about the science behind autumn colors.  Read on to find out more about what changes trees undergo in the fall: why do leaves turn colors? How do they change color?  Why do individual trees change to certain colors while others change to a completely different color?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 14:39

Native Animal of the Month - Aerial Yellowjacket

As the seasons change from autumn to winter, my field work tapers off and I spend most of time behind a computer, analyzing data and determining what can be accomplished the following field season. During this period our bird walks become my favorite time of the week. The walks give me some personal time to identify with nature be outside. However it isn’t the birds I enjoy the most, it’s the other discoveries. I like finding the overlooked, under-appreciated things that just seem beautiful and you can't really explain why. This week, my favorite find came while I was on a bird walk in the Menomonee Valley.

Saturday, 26 October 2013 08:21

What’s Happening at Washington Park

With the big events that have been happening in Riverside Park and in the Menomonee Valley, it’s easy to lose track of the fantastic things happening at Washington Park. To catch everyone up, I thought it best to check in with some of the folks who are helping to make it all happen.

Tim Vargo, bird magnet and Manager of Research and Community Science, had this to say about a wonderful tradition he leads every Wednesday morning:

Sunday, 27 October 2013 07:53

Annual Meeting is November 20th!

Join us on November 20, 2013 for our Volunteer Appreciation Party and Annual Meeting, an evening of food and fun as we celebrate our year, share our future plans and thank our wonderful volunteers for the tremendous work they do. Among those volunteers being recognized are members of the Urban Ecology Center Board of Directors. We thank them for the vision and leadership they provide.

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.

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Early Morning Birdwalks (Menomonee Valley)

Menomonee Valley

Tuesday, December 12th

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ROOT - Riverside Park

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Tuesday, December 12th

9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

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