Summer Campers Reconnecting to Nature

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Friday, 26 March 2021
Summer Campers Reconnecting to Nature

We have all been and continue to be affected by the ongoing pandemic and the new lifestyle and norms that have come with it. Children have been uniquely challenged in this respect - they have had to adapt to learning virtually, away from their peers, and the structure a typical school environment provides. This last year, more than ever, getting children outdoors and in nature was critical. The Urban Ecology Center made this possible by hosting several safe Summer Camp programs for kids of varying ages and interests. Children who attended last year’s camps were able to reconnect to the constants that are nature, friends, and community during a time filled with so much uncertainty.

Liliana Richard, a front-line nurse working throughout the pandemic, attested to this when speaking with the UEC about her daughter, Xyella, and her experience at Summer Camp in 2020. Liliana said,

I’m a nurse and [Xyella] was staying with my sister at the time, which was something she has never done, she’s never been away from me for more than a week and she was away from me for three months. So, I think that just allowing her to be able to experience a tradition that she loves in a way that was safe was very important for us, we appreciated that very much, the both of us. I remember one day picking her up asking ‘how are you doing?’ after camp, and she said, ‘good! I finally felt like things were normal again.’ And I was so appreciative of that because things had been so abnormal.”
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Xyella (left) at Outdoor Detective's camp this past summer while looking for aquatic macroinvertebrates in the Milwaukee River.

Liliana isn’t the only parent who saw a change in her child after attending camp. Heather Black marveled at how her son, Leo, has a new perspective of nature. She said,

He has a new relationship with the outdoors. The biggest change I see is what he does when we go outside on a walk or hike. He stops to show me the flowers, trees, and even animal tracks. Before Camp, he never has played alone or taken the time to really see the world around him. His knowledge about our city is so interesting! He appreciates the Milwaukee River and can place himself in the city based on his relation to the river. We also learned a lot about water flow and he has a great interest in ships and boat building. I literally could go on and on!” Leo has even picked up a new hobby after camp sparked an interest in rocks. “He loves rocks and examines the makeup for "crystals" and colors. We now are the proud owners of a Rock Tumbler and many books on geology.” 2DB4D8D6 7689 49A0 A310 85293FBD305B

When asked why she chose to enroll Leo in UEC Summer Camp, Heather responded,

We loved the idea of an ‘outdoor classroom’ where the kids could play and get fresh air but also would be learning about an area that was very close to home and we could explore as a family.”

She truly believes Summer Camp delivered on those expectations. Liliana is similarly appreciative of the camp’s impression of Xyella. Liliana said,

I think it’s incorporating the values that I want to instill in her with her everyday life and making them more aligned. We like to go camping and do outdoorsy things as a family but this is a good way for her to experience that within our social group, so it compounds her appreciation for nature.

Liliana, herself, has been involved with the UEC for years,

“I used to volunteer at the Urban Ecology Center when I was about 12, this was about 20 years ago before the building was even there and it was really small and different, but it’s been so great to watch it grow and see it serve so many people in the community. I think it’s really special.”

If you’d like to see this understanding and connection grow within your own child, sign them up for Summer Camp in 2021!


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