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!”
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.
Students can be scientists? It's true! In another story of "impossibles made possible" by your support of the Urban Ecology Center, we're taking at look at our Young Scientists Club and their participation in the University of Minnesota's Driven to Discover program!
Being outside is awesome because there is something for everyone. This was perfectly illustrated on a camping adventure with the Menomonee Valley Young Scientists Club this past summer. We packed two buses full of tents, sleeping bags, food and ourselves and drove up to Blue Heron Wildlife Sanctuary for our first Young Scientists and parents camping trip. Camping was a new experience for many, so we planned to do the basics like preparing dinner over a fire, telling stories and exploring the woods at night. But perhaps the best parts of the whole trip were the things that had not been planned.
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 Citizen Science, had this to say about a wonderful tradition he leads every Wednesday morning:
I have been working here at Washington Park for three years now and I must say that they have been three of the most memorable years of my life! I've had the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderful people — our staff, volunteers and community members — as we continue to grow the Washington Park branch into a wonderful destination for all of Milwaukee. Each day we learn a little bit more about the park and the community. And each day we are connecting kids and families to nature. I never think of our work as a job. It is a way of life with priceless benefits measured in kindness, awareness and "aha" moments.
It has been a huge year for the Young Scientists Club at Washington Park. Reflecting on it all, I can't even believe we've accomplished so much in such a short period of time! Longtime member Donald Harris did his best attempt to summarize exactly what we do in our club in a quote found later in this post. As I try to summarize it myself, I'm not even sure where to begin. What began as a way to engage drop-in kids at Washington Park has evolved into a dynamic, multi-faceted educational and recreational program that I'm proud to be a part of. I'll summarize for you a few of its many highlights over the past 12 months.
This past summer, we began a research partnership with the University of Minnesota's Driven to Discover program. The kids — with guidance from the staff — developed their own original bird research study and created a professional-quality research poster and paper. We then traveled to the University of Minnesota's insect fair, where we presented our research and won an Outstanding Project Award. Since then, our group of budding young scientists has also presented their work at our annual Citizen Science Research Summit, at the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative annual conference, and to a group of partnering teachers at our schools. As I write this, Donald is again presenting our work for the Hi-Mount Elementary science fair!
If you have visited the Washington Park Branch within the last three months, you have probably noticed the big map hanging up on the divider in the main classroom. And upon closer investigation you may have wondered what in the world our Young Scientists are doing by walking across America? Well, three months ago on Martin Luther King Day, we embarked on a grand adventure to walk across the country.