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.

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

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