At the end of December we flew to Milwaukee WI for a week with family and friends. We got to visit a lot of places that had been on my list to see with the kids, such as the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Urban Ecology Center. Unlike, the Museum which has changed little since I was a field tripping youngster, the Urban Ecology Center did not exist when I was a kid. It's been on my list to visit since we spent our two weeks in Milwaukee this summer.
The Urban Ecology Center's mission is to foster "ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood." So far they have three locations in Milwaukee. One in Washington Park, one in Menomonee Valley, and a location in Riverside Park that we spent a morning exploring. Their site has more information about each location. Their locations do a wide variety of environment education, research, family programs, equipment rentals and more.
When you walk in you are greeted by this welcoming lobby. It is a warm space with various seating, a fireplace, and tables for sitting and working. There are also helpful volunteers at the front desk that can answer questions, help you find things, and offer information. Beyond that, I was delighted to uncover several family friendly details tucked into this center. In the lobby there are books and puzzles tucked on a shelf.
We started in this room. It holds a variety of native animals, including turtles, snails, fish, and frogs in tanks. It is not overly impressive in design or size, but the exhibits are carefully placed at child's eye view and our kids enjoyed peering at the different animals. These are also used more during their classes and summer programs.
These river themed slides were a huge hit with our kids. You go up a stair case and briefly outdoors to go down the slides, which I found a little odd, but they found to be completely awesome. Apparently the Urban Ecology Center knows its audience. This is technically a "secret entrance" into the center. Our twins went up and down these slides countless times.
Our favorite part was this collection of instruments. You need to ask a volunteer to help you use them, but then our kids were allowed to strum and sing away. I loved the opportunities to compare and contrast this family of instruments. We had a little jam session in front of the fireplace before heading outside. Afterwards, we felt inspired to make more music. Our kids encouraged Grandpa to pull out his guitar and at home we used our homemade shakers.
The Riverside Park location is situated on 15 acres of wooded land and riparian habitat along the Milwaukee River. The Rotary Centenniel Arboretum offers beautiful trails. If we lived nearby, our nature walks would take place there. The trails are short and easily adapted to various ages and walk lengths. In the past we have seen deer, a variety of flowers and trees, and birds on walks in the Arboretum.
*Bike trails also run along the river and provide easy access to the Urban Ecology Center.
*There is an awesome 40 foot climbing walk you can use in the warmer months.
*There is also a Habitat Playgarden.
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