Growing Up UEC

February 15, 2024

Environmental Education

Summer Camps

In the heart of the city, where towering buildings and bustling streets dominate the landscape, the Urban Ecology Center provides opportunities for everyone to connect to nature and each other. For six-year-old Maggie and her mother Brooke, “their Urban Ecology Center” is more than just a place - it is where their connection to the natural world intensifies and their mother-daughter bond strengthens as Maggie grows.

Maggie’s eyes light up as she talks about her favorite activity at the UEC, “Going by the water is mostly my favorite thing to do here.” Maggie’s summer camp and school year program (NEEP) adventures have taken her from “Pebble Beach” along the Menomonee River to Lake Michigan and many places in between.

For Brooke, it is a relief that her family can have these experiences and learn about nature so close to home. “We don’t have to go really far for it,” Brooke explains, loving the convenience of being able to bike to each of the UEC’s three locations. “We biked here every day this week.” Their shared bike rides have not only become a mode of environmentally-friendly transportation, but also a bonding experience that links them to the beauty of the outdoors.

Maggie remembered the time she sampled crab apples with Mr. Flower, “they tasted very sour.” When asked if she tried crab apples too, Brooke laughs, “Absolutely not, but I like that there are knowledgeable and engaging staff, because I enjoy going for hikes, but I don’t really have a whole lot of outdoor or nature knowledge.”  So in a delightful twist, Maggie often becomes her mother’s teacher. This reversal of roles empowers children to share their discoveries and passions with others.

Brooke cherishes the impact the UEC has on her daughter, “She spends so much time indoors during the school year that I love that when she’s at the UEC she still has a chance to get dirty and explore.  This is the second day this week she’s come home with visible dirt on her face. I love it! She always comes home in a great mood.”

Maggie declares, “If the UEC didn’t exist, I would be missing out on FUN! If it wasn’t here that would be so BOOOO”, with a dramatic thumbs down.

Maggie’s strong emotional connection to the UEC is evident as she reminisces, “One time at Washington Park, I literally cried when I had to leave!”  This emphasizes the vital role the UEC has in shaping the way families connect with the natural world…all because of   your support!


The story above was featured in our News from the Naturehood publication. News from the Naturehood showcases individuals from the UEC community and their inspiring stories - demonstrating how your support has a big impact! To receive this mailing 3x per year and support the UEC, become a sustaining member of The Hive!

Past Employee
Guest Author

With a degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies, Michelle began her career as a zookeeper. An American badger remains her favorite animal - having raised one from a cub.

More from our Blog