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.
Our day-long and overnight Summer Camps can truly be a special time for kids to explore. This year I’m especially excited to announce two new camps: Outdoor Adventures for teens and Pathfinders for kids with special needs.
Outdoor Adventures is a week-long camp for youth who have completed the 9th grade, focused on developing outdoor skills, self-awareness and environmental stewardship. In addition, there will be a significant portion of the camp focused on team building and reflection time that will benefit their growth as individuals.
Last summer the Urban Ecology Center held its first Engineering for Kids Summer Camp for third and fourth graders. The entire experience at this camp completely exceeded my expectations. The campers built a raft with their own hands out of recycled wood, inner tubes, ropes and milk jugs and on their last day of camp they embarked on a big adventure - gliding their raft down the Menomonee River.
I felt intimately connected to this project as it reminded me of my childhood. My friends and I used to build rafts with driftwood in the Alagón River Reservoir, Spain. It was a passion I could share with my campers.
Despite my bias, I can honestly say that the Urban Ecology Center puts together a summer camp experience that even the most pristine and remote wilderness camp could never provide. One consistent comment parents and kids say about our summer camps is that we always do something fun and different every day in ways that showcase our great city.
Milwaukee is a vibrant urban landscape with many gems waiting to be uncovered and part of our summer camp experience is to uncover those gems. We still provide a healthy dose of outdoor exploration, of course, but I think we offer aspects that might surprise you. They are an incredible mix of fun, fascination, adventure, exploration and opportunity.
Spending time outdoors, actively engaging with nature is what our Summer Camps are all about!
Our campers explore the secrets of nature by looking under logs, hiking in the woods, climbing trees, building forts, creating art projects, taking pictures and more with kids from all over the city. They’re building science and engineering skills to be better prepared for school year.
Summer Camps have started at the Center, and what a start it was! The Urban Ecology Center became a few decibels louder as campers ages four to fourteen arrived to learn about nature in the city. It was amazing to hear and see as young minds were awoken by the engaging activities in their camps. Even more amazing, the camps at the Center take place in the heart of the city, allowing kids to experience Summer Camp without leaving Milwaukee!
Last year, while brainstorming ideas for summer camps, I suggested a photography camp for middle school aged campers. This summer was the first year, to my knowledge, that we offered a photography camp, and I was lucky enough to lead it.
Summer camp at the Urban Ecology Center is awesome for me as an educator. It’s laid back and having the same campers for four days means we have the opportunity to focus on activities they are interested in and help them gain a more in-depth knowledge of the environments just outside the Center’s doors.
Everyone, no matter their age, can teach, help and learn at the Urban Ecology Center! See for yourself how older adults through teens are mentoring Summer Campers and students who will in turn be the environmental leaders of tomorrow.
Research shows two things make a person environmentally aware – constant contact with nature early in life and a mentor who demonstrates positive behavior toward the environment. With this research in mind, we train interns to be mentors to high schoolers, who in turn become mentors to our Summer Campers.
Come in today to see how your whole family can learn, work and grow at our Center.
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 Citizen 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.