Woodlands, Fruit Orchards and Prairies Oh My!

Written by Emily Michi
    Thursday, 06 March 2014
Woodlands, Fruit Orchards and Prairies Oh My!

When I was first hired as an Environmental Educator seven years ago the Washington Park branch was just getting started. I had spent the last four years teaching in a variety of environmental education centers where my outdoor classroom had been a forest.

My new outdoor classroom was not a forest but a city park that had a lagoon with a very distinct “stinky end,” some nicely spaced trees and grass. All I could see were the challenges in not having decomposing logs to roll over, undergrowth to play camouflage or a gully of rocks; in short, all the things I was used to having when teaching a class.

So I wondered exactly how I would make Washington Park magical and exciting to a group of students. I quickly learned that hikes through Washington Park were magical and exciting, especially if you looked at it through the eyes of the students.

But what has been more exciting is how Washington Park as an outdoor classroom has changed over the last seven years. Raised bed gardens were built on the sparse grass between the building and the pond, a fishing pier was built on the island, the lagoon’s shoreline was restored with riparian habitat, rain gardens were planted, a prairie was established, native wetland plants were planted in the old lily ponds, a fruit orchard with a variety of trees has been planted and lately our land stewards have been creating a woodland. There is still a distinct “stinky end” of the lagoon that one day I hope will be a little less aromatic but my outdoor classroom sure does look different.

All of this has taken a lot of hard work by our great team of land stewards and by our dedicated volunteers. What has been done is incredible, but as we move forward there is still more work to do.

During the spring, summer and fall, volunteers help our land stewards plant native vegetation, remove invasive species, water the new plants and more. We would love your help in Washington Park to continue its growth. One way to get involved is to join our Burdock Brigade every Thursday from 3 - 5pm. To learn other ways you can help make Washington Park the crown jewel of the Milwaukee County Park system, come to one of our Volunteer Orientations, or contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Emily Michi

Emily Michi

Emily has been an environmental educator for over 10 years, six of those at the Urban Ecology Center. She loves the opportunity to share nature with urban youth and is amazed by how a simple thing like taking a group of students for a walk in a local park can be a new and exciting adventure. When she is not sharing nature with kids she likes to create crafts from upcycled material, hang out with her dog Cooper and spend quality time with her nifty husband.  

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