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Outdoor Awesomeness

Written by Michael Espinoza
    Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Outdoor Awesomeness

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.

During free time, parents got to know one another and shared their experiences. The kids were free to play as they wished. A mixed-age group of children played a game they invented using a volleyball. Two five-year-olds found joy in running up and down a hill and looking for toads along the edge of a forest. A third group collected camp chairs and got comfortable with books. These play groups continued on for over an hour - a focused and creative playtime that none of the adults wanted to interrupt. It became clear that this moment was what being outside surrounded by nature is all about. The freedom to choose where to go and what to do based on your own desires.

This kind of freedom is one of the things that makes Young Scientists Club so unique. Our activities are largely directed by following the interests of the children. I get requests to play camouflage, go looking for caterpillars and to hike down a trail that runs alongside the Menomonee River. It’s hard to find a single activity that satisfies such varied desires, but as a group we come together to find an agreement on how to balance different interests. We’ll go from an experiment in the community garden plots to a high energy predator and prey game in a field and close with a read aloud story on our building’s rooftop garden. These kinds of experiences cultivate both a sense of inquiry and a capacity for cooperation in our Young Scientists. And those experiences are fuel for the children to return home and seek out their favorite outdoor activities on their own time: to become lifelong appreciators of the “outdoor awesomeness” that they find when they’re at the Center.

Photo Credit: Maddie Bird
Michael Espinoza

Michael Espinoza

Michael is a Community Program Educator and Visitor Services Assistant at our Menomonee Valley branch. He is a graduate of Boston University where he studied Environmental Analysis and Policy. He can often be found playing on the slide or hiding in the trunk of a tree with the Young Scientists Club. He is an avid vermi-composter, gardener and has recently taken on beekeeping.

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