Redefining Nature Centers

Riveredge is more than a nature center. Its legacy of innovation, partnerships, and leadership in the areas of land restoration, research, and inquiry-based education throughout Wisconsin serve as strong foundation to its future initiatives.  Today, Riveredge is pioneering methods of redefining a community’s relationship to a nature center. Riveredge is achieving its mission by empowering and supporting communities to live in harmony with their natural environment…oh, and having fun it in too.

One way we are currently re-writing assumptions of nature centers is through school partnerships. Formal partnerships between local nature centers and school districts are an opportunity to deepen learning and life skill outcomes.  Partnerships that expand beyond field trips allow for deeper relationships between a local nature and their communities.  Riveredge Nature Center (RNC) and the Cedarburg School District (CSD) have completed two years of such a partnership.  We are sharing the information about our partnership as a way to spread the word and help other nature centers and environmental organizations consider perusing deeper relationships with their school districts which may positively affect not only the students, but the entire community.  If you’d like to learn more please consider the following items.  Thank you to the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board for funding our evaluation project of this partnership through a 2013-14 grant.

Our partnership with Cedarburg School District has led us to think even BIGGER at Riveredge.  How could we reduce barriers to outdoor and environmental learning within our formal education systems?Jewel & Megan

In five years’ time, we see the students of your school district healthier, happier, more creative, and inspired by the world around them. We envision a school system where the outdoors is interconnected to the foundation of every day just as technology is interwoven through all subject areas.  We witness schools that do not have to make the choice between less recess time and more reading time because teachers have learned ways of transforming their local outdoor spaces into classrooms. We see the evolution of the next generation of scientists.

The vision of this cutting-edge project is to work in a true partnership with local school districts to transform the culture of our formal education system through the integration of outdoor learning experiences, environmental science learning, and the implementation of sustainability projects and initiatives.

In its most basic description, the “Riveredge School Naturalist Program” will place a fully funded environmental educator into local schools or school districts four days per week for five years, to meet the needs defined by the school district in order to achieve this vision.

Interested in learning more?  Contact Jessica Jens, Executive Director (jjens@riveredge.us or 262-416-1068)

 

End of Year Letter from Jessica

I once read a book titled, “How to Poop in the Woods.”  I was on the eve of embarking on my very first backpacking trip – up to the Porcupine Mountains in the U.P. – with a group of three co-workers.  I was 22 years old and had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing.   Yet, I was going to help co-lead this trip in a couple of weeks.  We all thought I should have some idea of how to, err, poop in the woods.  That trip, full of traverses of flooded rivers, good company around the campfire, and acres and acres of forests, brought me to my real home—the natural world.SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

This past summer, 15 years after that homecoming, my eight-year-old daughter, Aspen, and I waded in the Milwaukee River to catch crayfish. Her friends were there too as part of a week at Riveredge’s Trailblazers camp.  Throughout the summer she flipped upside down on ropes from the tree tops, swung—splashing and giggling—into  the river, and slid down the mud covered otter slide – all on this 379 acres of land so many Riveredge Kids call home.

The impact of Riveredge can be measured in so many ways, from the research made possible by our protected habitat to the number of schools and students who visit every year. But, it is the stories of Riveredge Kids that illustrate the transformational impact of our work.

Caroline Mosley is one of those kids. Five year-old Caroline, always the last to pull her strainer out of the pond, spent her summers in Riveredge camps.  She interned with Riveredge educators while completing her undergraduate degrees in Environmental Science and German at Creighton University, and last year, as a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, she presented on Phosphorus Recycling by Quagga Mussels at Riveredge’s 1st Annual Research Symposium.  Caroline’s next adventure will be in Washington, D.C. She is one of students awarded the prestigious University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships. Come February, she’ll spend 12 months working at NOAA and learning how policy becomes science.

Her story, and that of today’s Riveredge Kids like my daughter, was made possible by the vision and dedication of the handful of people who founded Riveredge in the face of encroaching development. We are privileged to be stewards of their legacy. It was their leadership that made Riveredge a pioneer in environmental education and a destination for best practices in environmental restoration. Of course, the human impact of their work can be seen in the 250,000 ‘Riveredge Kids’ who, since 1970, have discovered the natural world by wading in the Milwaukee river, sweeping the prairie, and  tapping the sugar maples.

Their vision and your support is the foundation for the future of Riveredge.  Join us in building on the Riveredge legacy. Make a year-end gift to the annual fund which pays for the yellow buses to bring kids to Riveredge, the purchase of pond strainers, the salaries of our educators, and the expanded adventure programming to engage a new generation of Riveredge Kids.

Make a difference today by supporting Riveredge. Together, we’ll help more kids find their home in the natural world.

 

Keep Smiling & Get Outside!

Jessica Jens, Riveredge Nature Center Executive Director

Riveredge Gifts for the Holidays

Give the Gift of Pure Maple Syrup this Holiday Season! Grab a gift bag filled with Riveredge’s pure maple syrup and our very own pancake mix. Call Riveredge for information about shipping maple syrup gift boxes to family and friends through Dec. 18th. Download the order form here. 

We also have bunches of red osier dogwood for decorating as well as nature books, field guides, children’s books and many other nature related gifts.

All proceeds support Riveredge programs which foster a deeper understanding of the world for life-long learners of all ages.

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Join the Clothing Swap @ Riveredge

What is a Clothing Swap?

A clothing swap is a way people can trade their unwanted clothes for “new-to-you” items. Everyone brings a few bags of items to the swap. Then we layout our items on tables according to clothing size and gender (e.i. an area for girls, boys, women’s, men’s, etc). Once everything is displayed, the swapping begins and people can gather items that they would like to have.  People are able to try on clothes or take the chance. If something doesn’t fit, you can always bring it back to the next clothing swap. And in the end, everyone leaves with something to take home.

 Why we LOVE the idea @ Riveredge

I like clothing swaps the most because it allows me to find items for my children in the next largest size. A swap also allows me to give my unwanted clothes to someone who might need infant clothes for the new addition to their family. The last clothing swap I attended, I brought women’s clothes and went home with baby boy clothes. While another lady gathered my unwanted women’s clothes and she left behind girl clothes which someone else took home. A clothing swap is a win-win for everyone, while also helping with the family budget and keeping items out of the landfill.

Join me during the Riveredge Clothing Swap on November 16th, 1:00-3:00. Follow our Facebook event page for the swap and find out what others are bringing. Then register online through our website. Registration is required for this event as space is limited.

Facebook event page

Registration page

 

Clothing Swap Set-up and Times: Sunday, November 16

1:00-1:30    Participants set up their own clothing on tables labeled with clothing sizes/categories. Participants cannot begin swapping until everyone has displayed his/her items on the tables.

1:30-2:30    Participants can begin browsing and gathering items

2:30-3:00    Participants collect any leftover items that he/she brought from home. Any items not taken will be donated.

The Importance (& Fun) of Sturgeon Fest

I could start this short editorial about how amazing it feels to be part of a project that is restoring a breeding population of Lake Sturgeon to the Milwaukee River for the first time since the late 1800’s.  That would be a good beginning.

Or, I could easily speak about the good feelings we all get when we help the environment through positive activities, such as repairing the damage mistakenly, and unintentional, done by generations long passed.  That would be honest.

Perhaps, I could tell the story about the hopes that go into the season of sturgeon rearing which begins in the spring, continues through hours of love and dedication by the sturgeon rearing volunteers at Riveredge, and finishes with a bittersweet release the last Saturday in September.  That couldn’t be more true.

But for me, and my family, the “Return the Sturgeon” restoration project at Riveredge Nature Center IS all those things and so much more.  There’s just something about these ‘so ugly they’re ridiculously cute’ fish.  There’s something about the way that baby fish wiggles its nose at you from its personal ice cream bucket; just something about the way it swishes its tail before it disappears into the depths of Lake Michigan that just touches me in the depth of my gut.  There’s just something about knowing you are part of releasing a prehistoric fish that has a good chance of continuing to live and thrive in Lake Michigan when your great-great grandchildren play on its shores decades from now.

For those that have been to Sturgeon Fest, the celebration of the release of over 1,000 of this year’s baby Lake Sturgeon, you can relate.  For those of you who haven’t take the chance yet, I encourage you to find the time to come.

Sturgeon Fest is arriving quickly on Saturday, September 27th from 11 am – 3 pm at Lakeshore State Park.  It’s a free community festival (with free parking) – including lots of hands-on activities for adults and kids alike, kayaking, food, and, of course, the sturgeon release.  It’s an experience for all ages and all stages of life.  And, certainly, one that you are unlikely to forget.

To learn more about Sturgeon Fest this year, just visit the website.  You can even pre-reserve a sturgeon to release online.  The $10 donation helps support Riveredge Nature Center’s contribution to this 25-year restoration project.

P.S. – the baby sturgeon will be tagged by the DNR at Riveredge this coming Monday or Tuesday.  These tags (similar to the microchips we put in our pets) help researchers track the fish.  It’s quite a site.  If you are interested in watching, give Riveredge a call at 262-375-2715 for more information.

I hope to see you at Sturgeon Fest!  I’ll be there with my family, releasing those prehistoric fish, and enjoying every minute of it.

Jessica Jens, Executive Director

Changing Habits for Habitats

This year, the Coyotes homeshool high schoolers, age 13-17, studied environmental science here at Riveredge Nature Center. As part of their yearly curriculum they are required to do a community project. The 2014 class started a blog as part of their project. The title of their project for 2014 is Changing Habits for Habitats. The goal is to decrease your carbon footprint for the month of May.  They have put together a calendar of habits for  May and will be posting a new blog post each day corresponding with the calendar.

Visit the Changing Habits for Habitats blog here.

Also, visit the projects Facebook page here

Earth Week @ Riveredge

Happy Earth Week!  There’s lots going on at Riveredge this week, and we’d love to have you join us.

Come for a walk, listen to the sounds, and enjoy nature – that alone is a great way to celebrate the earth this week.

If you’d like to do something a bit more, we  have wonderful events coming up this week (follow the links for more information about each one)…

  • A naturalist led walk on Friday at 1 pm, “Gone Hiking” – FREE for members and only $5 for non members
  • A showing of “Extreme Ice” on Friday night (a spectacular film about the melting of the glaciers) – FREE
  • And our ever popular “Work and Learn” earth day morning on Saturday – pick from all kinds of projects to help out nature and Riveredge during the morning (we have projects for all ages) and it’s followed up by a wonderful spaghetti lunch and bat program for all! FREE!

Join us for Earth Week – give time to nature and you will receive more than you can imagine!

 

Collaboration for the Greater Good

In honor of Earth Day, we, the executive directors of four local nature & ecology centers, have come together to host a talk with Gordon Hempton, Emmy-award winning acoustic ecologist and author. Having circled the globe in pursuit of the Earth’s rarest natural sounds, Mr. Hempton offers a new take on conservation: preserving the quiet places in the world.

Mr. Hempton will speak at Mequon Nature Preserve on April 22 at 7:00 p.m. and will provide a private ‘Sound Tour’ of the lands managed by Milwaukee’s four non-profit nature centers in the days following for donors to the newly launched Collaborative Fund.

The April 22nd talk is open to the public.  For more information, visit our calendar of events.

We are excited about this opportunity to communicate our shared interests. With unique geography, flora, and fauna, each nature center in Greater Milwaukee contributes to an understanding of the larger ecosystem of southeastern Wisconsin. Where Schlitz Audubon Nature Center has Lake Michigan, Urban Ecology Center has the Milwaukee River. Where Mequon Nature Preserve has the start of a restored prairie and pristine wetlands, Riveredge has a mature native Wisconsin prairie and forest. Our differences are our strengths; each of us represents a unique slice of wild Wisconsin. And, yet, as unique as we are, we are unified by a common goal to connect people to the natural world.

There is more to come on this collaboration and its goals for making a difference throughout southeast Wisconsin.

If you have ideas you’d like to share, feel free to contact one of the Executive Directors at any of the participating nature centers.   I, for one, would love to hear your ideas on how our joint efforts can be best used to promote positive change in our communities.

– Jessica Jens, Riveredge Nature Center Executive Director

jjens@riveredge.us, 262-416-1068

Bird Photography Tips

Hey Birders & Photographers (or wanna-be’s of any type) – we have a special treat for you Tuesday, offered by the Photo Club at Riveredge:

Photographers Anonymous Bird Photography (mini seminar)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the Riveredge barn

Birds are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures in the world yet they’re among the hardest to capture well on film.  Join bird photographer Greg Yahr as he shares some helpful tips on how to improve your bird photography.  Greg is the president of the Photo Club and has given this seminar to both the Camera Clinque in West Bend and the Menomonee Falls Camera Club where it was well received.

No fee & no registration necessary.

This meeting is all about taking pictures of birds! Lots of great tips and tricks will be shared along with some fantastic bird pictures. The Photo Club brings together those who enjoy photography and wish to take better pictures through practice. Meetings are free and open to the public, and you’ll be welcomed as a photographer, regardless of your skill level. They are informal and include time for “shop talk” and networking with other members. Bring any pictures you want to share (prints, album, or digital files on a USB flash drive). You do not need to bring your camera equipment or a computer.