2016 has been a pretty amazing year for my family and our outdoor adventures
- We had a spectacular family trip to California. enjoying John Muir Woods and Yosemite.
- Many day trips throughout the Badger State to new state parks and natural areas, including multiple visits to the Baraboo area, a family favorite.
- Countless visits to our local favorites: Lapham Peak State Park, Pike Lake State Park, the Monches & Loew Lake segments of the Ice Age Trail, Retzer Nature Center, Mequon Nature Preserve, and our "neighborhood nature," the Weiland Preserve
This year has also been wonderful for my own growth as an outdoor educator and volunteer.
- Our first nature kindergarten class "graduated" and the program expanded to four kindergarten classrooms this school year.
- I've had the pleasure of leading about a dozen or so presentations to school staffs, outdoor enthusiasts, nature center professionals, and other interested parties at conferences, schools, and nature centers.
- The Tyke Hike program I coordinate as part of my volunteer work with the Ice Age Trail Alliance's Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter led fifteen hikes and nearly 550 hikers.
- Our school has built collaborations with the Retzer Nature Center and Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources
- I've read numerous articles and books on outdoor learning, made wonderful connections with an amazing set of people, and added so much nature to my classroom curriculum through play-based, place-based, project-based and personalized learning - my 4 P's.
We kicked off at the Retzer Nature Center. Embry loves clearing the trail so she did her best to make sure the trail was void of pine cones. Of course, we had to stop at fallen trees and stumps along the trail for some easy natural play. Embry especially enjoys the stump jumps as long as they don't lead to rump bumps.
We walked through various habitats. From prairie to the pond with woods along the way, we always enjoy a good trip to Retzer.
Them to cap off the year, we enjoyed a trip to our neighborhood nature spot, the Weiland preserve.
Embry always enjoys being the hike leader, though her tendency to want to stop and explore everything she sees does make for an interesting hiking pace. It compares to stop 'n go traffic, but with a lot more enthusiasm.
We took our usual route, enjoying and not avoiding what Embry calls "slip sloppy" ice. We saw tracks, scat, and collected every stick we could handle along the way.
I absolutely love the winter scenery. Being able to see into the woods from this barren perspective makes it seem the trees go on forever. There's just something so serene and calming about a winter walk.
Of course, the chuckles and silliness of a three year old tend to break the serenity quickly.
Near the end of the trail, Embry was mesmerized by the ice. She counted the leaves trapped in the ice and was especially enamored with the frozen footsteps and the bubbles trapped inside.
But, nothing is more fun than "ice skating" on the curb line ice and cracking as much as possible on the way home. Bring on more adventure 2017! We'll be ready!