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An Exciting Year for the Washington Park Young Scientists!

Written by Erick Anderson
    Tuesday, 02 July 2013
An Exciting Year for  the Washington Park Young Scientists!

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 Community 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!

Continuing our exciting adventures into original research, our Community Program Educator Rachel is leading our crew through an MMSD-funded water quality study of our lagoon. This will serve as a baseline study to help us track the effects of our lagoon restoration efforts. I can say with confidence that these kids are developing skills I never even touched until studying science at the college level.

Speaking of awesome projects that Rachel is leading (there's a long list of those), we're also in the midst of a United HealthCare funded Walk-Across America campaign. Every Saturday, we've taken field trips exploring different parks in the Milwaukee area and tracked our miles of hiking and cross-country skiing using pedometers. Since January, we've collectively walked the distance from Portland to Indianapolis, learning a bit about each state we've passed through.

This summer, our Food Friday program will be in full swing thanks to funding from the Milwaukee Public Schools' Safe Schools Healthy Students grant. We'll be teaching kids to plant and maintain edible gardens, prepare healthful meals using our fresh produce, and eventually, plan and prepare a restaurant-style meal for their families. I've seen our kids argue over who gets to eat their vegetables first! This may be our most impressive accomplishment of all.

The Young Scientists Club is for kids in the community to come to have fun and our mission is to get kids outside. 
On Food Fridays we pick food we planted over the summer and then we cook and eat and all the kids enjoy. 
Saturdays are field trip days where we go on fun trips to Grant Park or maybe in the winter time Red Arrow Park to go ice skating. 
Thursday is gardening day, we plant a bunch of veggies or plants native to Wisconsin.
Tuesday is a free day where kids choose the activities.
All in all the Urban Ecology Center is a great place to be, for kids and adult volunteers.
— Donald Harris, Young Scientists Club member

Young Scientists Club feels like a second family to me, a family which has plenty of room for new members! We welcome any kids, ages 7-12, to join us every Tuesday - Friday (except Jul. 4 & Aug. 28 & 29) from 4 - 6pm and every Saturday from 1 - 4pm. I'm very proud of the fun, positive, and educational program the kids have worked with us to build and I'm thrilled to share it with new families!

Erick Anderson

Erick Anderson

Plan A for Erick’s life was to become a high school science teacher. But after graduating from Waukesha’s Carroll University in 2006 with degrees in Chemistry and Secondary Education, he found himself stumbling upon a much more intriguing Plan B. Joining the national program Lutheran Volunteer Corps, he spent the next two years placed as a full-time Environmental Educator at the Riverside Park Branch and was given the opportunity to stay on for three more years. In 2011, he began Plan C as Community Program Coordinator at the Washington Park Branch, focusing particularly on the Young Scientists Club program. He looks forward to finding out what plans D through Z will have in store.

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