Announcing the Arboretum Docent Program!

Written by Beth Heller
    Monday, 01 July 2013
Announcing the Arboretum Docent Program!

With the addition of 25 acres of land along the Milwaukee River and Oak Leaf Trail to the existing 15 acres of restored natural lands of Riverside Park, we are gearing up for adventures and exploration of our new 40-acre Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. You are invited to join in the fun through our new volunteer docent program. This training will prepare you to lead other nature and outdoor enthusiasts in learning about the Arboretum.

Starting in August, volunteer docents will gain an insider's understanding of ecological features, stories of community engagement, "Children's Forest" design and history of the new Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. The docent training program will be full of rich learning experiences and practice. During the first session, participants will discover what makes the Urban Ecology Center's approach to nature-based education unique as well as what are the critically important impacts of mentoring others in nature. Docents will walk through all areas of the new arboretum, discovering ways to tap the imagination of children, reveal the inquisitiveness of community members, and activate the enthusiasm of outdoor adventurers. Each session will build upon the previous classes including hands-on interaction with the outdoors and practice leading others through this urban oasis of natural beauty. Phase one of the docent program prepares docents to be "generalists" who are able to provide insight into the basic ecological aspects of the arboretum and the story of how people have interacted with this land over the past couple decades.

Beginner docents will be able to answer questions like: What is an arboretum? What make the Milwaukee Centennial Arboretum unique compared to others? How did this project happen? Who was involved? How much did it cost? Why did the US Forest Service designate this land as a Children's Forest? What is adaptive management? What kind of wildlife does the arboretum support? And that is just the beginning.

Building the Oak Savanna one plant at a time.

Phase two begins in Spring of 2014, when docent training begins to build a deep understanding of the ecological history. By then, docents will have completed at least half of their required tours and will know what kinds of questions participants have asked that they couldn't answer. Center staff will help docents develop skills and understanding of this complex, urban ecosystem so that the docents, in turn can share that with the community. Examples of the kinds of questions the intermediate docent will be able to answer are: How do we manage the land to best support ecological diversity? How do we know which birds, insects, reptiles and mammals call this place home? What kind of practices do we have in place to improve the health of the ecosystem? What is the best way to engage a 5 year-old in the "imaginature" areas? An 8th grader? A parent?

Who should become a docent? You should, if you...

  • Enjoy the outdoors
  • Like meeting new people
  • Love learning
  • Are curious about the Arboretum
  • Are excited to shape the lives of children
  • Would like to meet other families or adults who care about nature

Interested? Great!

The introductory docent program includes four two-hour training sessions. To complete the training you must attend each session once. Training can be completed over four Monday sessions (2 hours each) or two Saturday sessions (4 hours each). If a consistent schedule does not work for you, you can also mix and match Mondays and Saturdays, as long as you attend one of each session.

In addition, we ask that docents commit to leading at least 8 hours of tours in the following year. In particular, we are looking for docents to lead tours during the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Grand Opening celebrations on Tuesday, September 24, between 11am and 1:30 pm and Saturday, September 28 (times TBA).

Training Schedule:

Session 1: Monday, August 19, 5 - 7pm or Saturday September 14, 9am - 1pm

Session 2: Monday, August 26, 5 - 7pm or Saturday, September 14, 9am - 1pm

Session 3: Monday, September 9, 5 - 7pm or Saturday, September 21, 9am - 1pm

Session 4: Monday, September 16, 5 - 7pm or Saturday, September 21, 9am - 1pm

Adventures await! Sign-up now for fun, learning and exploration that will carry you well into the future.

Click here to sign up for Docent Trainings!

Beth Heller

Beth Heller

Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning, Beth received her Masters in Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee in 2005, where she received the Outstanding Business Plan award for a plan to launch a branch of the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park. She graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI in 1994 with a B.A. degree in Biology and Education. Beth began working at the Urban Ecology Center in 2000 to combine her love of the city with her appreciation of nature. Beth loves to sail, bike, sing and hike.


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