Environmental Education

Students at the Urban Ecology Center get so involved in what they’re doing — and have so much fun — they don’t even realize how much they’re learning!

From tapping maple trees for syrup, to ice skating on the Washington Park lagoon, to donning hip waders and carrying magnifying glasses to look for damselflies, leeches, clams and crayfish in the Milwaukee River , there is always an opportunity for nature based learning!

On this Page:

A new model for environmental learning

In the city, people often live in apartment buildings and school grounds are often covered in cement. The Urban Ecology Center offers unique urban sanctuaries and “outdoor laboratories” for neighborhood school children.

The UEC’s staff and volunteers serve as adult mentors to guide students, year after year, as they progress through school.

Based on this model, the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project (NEEP) partners with schools within a two-mile radius of our branches at Riverside, Washington, and Three Bridges Parks. Rather than arranging for single field trips, each participating school signs up for an entire year. This provides them with multiple visits to each park, spread throughout the school year, and ongoing participation in the program each year.

If your school is outside the two-mile limit, scroll down to "more opportunities" to learn other options!

Private Group Experiences

We provide foundational nature-based outdoor programs that bring neighborhood green spaces to life with hands-on explorations for curious minds!
From rock climbing to twilight hikes, our Adventures are designed to foster team-building while learning a new outdoor skill to take with you.
Winter Adventures Menu
Spring Adventures Menu

NEEP

The nationally recognized Neighborhood Environmental Education Project (NEEP)’s innovative approach to environmental education offers a unique opportunity for you to supplement your science curricula. With NEEP, schools partner with the Urban Ecology Center for an entire year, transforming the experience from just another field trip to a permanent outdoor classroom where you can reinforce science concepts taught in class with hands-on outdoor activities during multiple visits.

Our science-based programs range from basic wildlife and ecology studies, to the physics of sound and light, to simple machines, to energy, to recycling. At a time when physical education programs are being cut, the UEC also offers valuable kinesthetic learning opportunities, including rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, snow shoeing and ice skating. Our custom designed programs meet the needs and desires of the teachers and school districts.

For more information

To find out more about why the Urban Ecology Center is more than just a field trip site, contact Lynn Anders, Environmental Education Manager, (414) 964-8505, x103 or landers@urbanecologycenter.org

National Recognition for NEEP

The National Environmental Education Advancement Project selected the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project as one of the most unique and effective programs in the state, inviting us to share our model with five different urban regions in Wisconsin.

Environmental Education Sponsorship Opportunities

The Urban Ecology Center relies on community sponsors to help provide terrific programming to schools. Each school contributes a portion of the cost for a NEEP contract and generous donors and corporate partners contribute the remainder. Contact our Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager, Meenal Atre, at (414) 964-8505, x136 or matre@urbanecologycenter.org, if you or your organization would like to become a NEEP sponsor.

Ensure environmental education is available for students in Milwaukee!


For the 2022-2023 year, the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project (NEEP) was supported by*:

  • Bader Philanthropies, Inc.
  • BMO Harris Bank
  • Brady Corporation
  • Clare M Peters Charitable Trust
  • Dorothy Inbusch Foundation, Inc.
  • Eaton Corporation
  • Go Outside Fund
  • Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors Youth Foundation
  • Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Inc.
  • Green Bay Packers Foundation
  • Herzfeld Foundation
  • Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation, Inc.
  • Komatsu Mining Corp Foundation
  • Maihaugen Foundation
  • Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Neroli Salon
  • Puelicher Foundation, Inc.
  • Ralph Evinrude Foundation
  • Rexnord Foundation
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Steigleder Charitable Trust
  • Target
  • U.S Forest Service
  • We Energies Foundation
  • Weyco Group, Inc.

*Last updated 6/19/23

PEEP

Preschool Environmental Education Project (PEEP)

Through the Preschool Environmental Education Project (PEEP), participants form relationships with the nature in their neighborhoods through a wide range of educational options. PEEP offerings include traditional school year, seasonal and summer experiences for young children and year-round opportunities for grown ups who teach and inspire children. This ensures our youngest children have multiple opportunities to connect with the outdoors.

Professional Development

We also offer fun and engaging educational opportunities for adults! PEEP offers a wide variety of presentations, focus workshops, seminars, and credit courses such as:

  • Urban Nature-based Early Childhood Education
  • Exploring Urban Environments with the Early Childhood Ages
  • Designing Inclusive NbEC Experiences
  • Nature Play and Risk Assessment
  • Essential Nature Knowledge for Early Childhood Educators
  • Aligning Nature Exploration with Early Learning Standards
  • Tools for Tiny Hands

Virtual and In-person options are available. Registry Credit is available for all pieces of training.

Contact Us!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Nature-based Early Childhood Team if you would like more information or have any questions!

NbEC Educators Alex LaBonte, Matt FlowerPEEP Email: education@urbanecologycenter.org / PEEP Phone Number: 414-626-8564

Summer Camps

Summer camps at the UEC are oh so special. Kids form a connection to nature through hands-on adventures and healthy outdoor fun!

The camp website will be available to browse on January 17th, and camps will officially open February 6th.

Camps are available for kiddos in pre-k all the way through 8th grade and there is no shortage of activities to choose from! Biking, Fishing, Forest Camp, Outdoor Detectives are just a few from the selection of camps you can expect!

Check out our 2024 Summer Camps

More Opportunities

Whether you are teaching the basics of birds or looking to liven up your after-school program, the Center has many opportunities that will excite your students. The following programs are available for all Milwaukee area schools.

Private Group Experiences

We provide foundational nature-based outdoor programs that bring neighborhood green spaces to life with hands-on explorations for curious minds! From rock climbing to twilight hikes, our Adventures are designed to foster team-building while learning a new outdoor skill to take with you.

Winter Adventures Menu

Spring Adventures Menu

Summer Adventures Menu

Community Science

Bridging the gap between research and the community is the goal of the Community Science program. If you are interested in involving students in hands-on research, such as bird monitoring or monarch tagging, contact Tim Vargo, Manager of Research and Community Science, (414) 964-8050 ext. 116, tvargo@urbanecologycenter.org.

Service Learning

What can be better than learning by doing? Help the Urban Ecology Center improve the natural areas of our parks and learn about these important habitats through a service learning project. Contact Davita Flowers-Shanklin , Volunteer Program Manager, (414) 964-8505 ext. 110, dflowersshanklin@urbanecologycenter.org.

Family Programs

We offer lots of public programs for families! Check out our Events Calendar to see what we have to offer, including weekend programs.

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