Waukesha County

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Waukesha County Environmental Education Resources Hub

Enhance your learning with these great resources from Waukesha County Parks and Land Use. Explore our virtual and in-person opportunities for learners of all ages. 

Topics are updated often, check back to see what comes next!


The Outdoor Classroom Series

Expand learning to the outdoors with an environmental education program at Retzer Nature Center! The 60-minute environmental education programs are perfect for home school groups, virtual learners, families, caregivers, scout troops, 4-H groups, and more! Programs are geared towards elementary students 4K and up. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Programs will be conducted completely outdoors, so dress for the weather. In case of inclement weather, the program will be moved to an openly ventilated location. 

Wednesdays at 10 a.m. this Summer
$4 per child per class 
(Free for adults and young siblings ages 3 and under)
Pre-Registration is required at least 24-hours prior to program.

May 18: Spring Birds - Spring is a great time to see and hear lots of migratory birds returning to or passing through Wisconsin. Join us as we explore the Retzer trails looking and listening for birds.

May 25: Wonderful Wetlands Learn why wetlands are important and the many functions they serve in the environment. Then take a hike around Retzer to see a few different kinds of wetlands in action.

June 1: Pond ExplorationExplore the Retzer Pond and meet cool creatures who call the pond muck home. Learn about the adaptations and features they possess to live in this watery world.

June 8: Recycle Raccoon's Adventure HikeWe’ll go for a hike and learn from Recycle Raccoon, Waukesha County Recycles mascot. He’ll teach us what everyday actions you can do in and around your home and yard by exploring the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. There will be lots of adventure along the way!

June 15: Crystal's Clean Water AdventureLet’s go for a hike and learn from Crystal, the clean water drop, what everyday actions around your home and yard might be making water polluted. There will be lots of adventure along the way!

June 22: Citizen Science-ButterfliesJoin us as we learn about butterflies and explore their habitats. We’ll look for caterpillars and butterflies and see what they need to survive.

June 29: Nature ExplorationUsing our powers of observation and sensory skills, we will have a hands-on outdoor experience exploring the natural treasures of the season.

July 6: Art in NatureNature creates unique artwork all around us with beautiful colors, interesting patterns, and unusual textures. During this program, we’ll look for artistic inspiration on the Retzer Trails and create an ephemeral, trailside art piece.

July 13: Secrets of Stream LifeDiscover a whole hidden world of life in a local stream. Learn how these creatures survived through the winter and what they will become this year! Most importantly, we will learn simple actions we can take to protect our streams and the life in them.

July 20: Colors in NatureCome explore how humans and animals perceive colors differently. We’ll also see how different colors of feathers, fur, leaves and flowers help plants, animals and insects communicate, reproduce and survive.

July 27: Nature ExplorationUsing our powers of observation and sensory skills, we will have a hands-on outdoor experience exploring the natural treasures of the season.

August 3: The Heat Is On-Water ExplorationWater is an amazing and unique compound that makes life possible. Learn about heat energy in water as we investigate some of water’s special properties.

August 10: Nature Exploration-Prairie - Explore and make observations at Retzer Nature Center’s colorful prairie. We’ll check out the Prairie Underground exhibit and then take a close look at flowering prairie plants and prairie grass to see how they have adapted to life in the prairie.

August 17: Nature Exploration-Things with WingsLet’s explore all things winged: birds, butterflies, bees and bats. We’ll discover how these winged creatures are similar and different and how they all can fly.

August 24: Nature Exploration A to ZJoin us on an alphabet hike where we will look high and low and from A to Z!

August 31: Citizen Science-SnakesJoin us as we learn about snakes that call the Retzer prairies home. We’ll explore their habitat and investigate the snake boards at Retzer used to collect snake population data. We may meet some wild snakes and we’ll definitely meet Retzer’s animal ambassador snakes.

 
Wednesdays at The Planetarium

All shows are held at the Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium located inside the Retzer Environmental Learning Center. Complement and expand your learning with a show on the dome! All groups are welcome. The 60-minute shows are geared towards elementary students. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
$4 per child per class
 
(Free for children ages 2 and under).

Show descriptions by title can be found online at:
https://sdw.waukesha.k12.wi.us/Page/2759

Wednesday Morning 11 a.m. Public Shows in May:
  • May 4: One World, One Ski: Big Bird's Adventure
  • May 11: Constellations: Adventures Connecting Earth & Sky
  • May 18: Nine Planets and Counting
  • May 25: The Solar System Show
Wednesday 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Public Shows in June, July, and August:
  • June 1 - Geology theme: (11am) Did An Asteroid Really Kill the Dinosaurs? (1pm) Our Violent Planet
  • June 8 - Life theme: (11am) Space Aliens: Looking for Life in the Universe (1pm) The Sun: Our Living Star
  • June 15 - Culture theme: (11am) Stargazers of Africa (1pm) SkyTellers: The Myths, The Magic, and The Mysteries of the Universe
  • June 22 - Time theme: (11am) It's About Time: Cosmic Cycles We Live By (1pm) Mexica Archaeoastronomy: Between Space and Time
  • June 29 - Exploration theme: (11am) CapCom Go: The Apollo Story (1pm) Satelix
  • July 6 - Space Travel theme: (11am) Rusty Rocket's Last Blast (1pm) The Secret of the Cardboard Rocket
  • July 13 - Moon theme: (11am) Max Goes to the Moon (1pm) Zodiac: The Stars, the Moon, and the Path of the Sun
  • July 20 - Colors theme: (11am) On the Blue Planet (1pm) Cosmic Colors: Adventures along the Spectrum
  • July 27 - Earth theme: (11am) Amazing Planet (1pm) Dynamic Earth
  • August 3 - Adventure theme: (11am) Little Draggy's Adventure (1pm) One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure
  • August 10 - Sun theme: (11am) Beyond the Sun (1pm) Sunstruck
  • August 17 - Flight theme: (11am) Dino Saurs! Change Over Time (1pm) Flight Adventures
  • August 24 - Alphabet theme (11am) A to Z Astronomy! From 3 to 103 (1pm) IBEX-Search for the Edge of the Solar System
  • August 31 - Science theme (11am) Defying Gravity (1pm) Cosmic Recipe: Setting the Periodic Table
Wee Wonders

This monthly program is an opportunity for nature exploration and discovery for children ages 2 - 4 with their guardians. Wee Wonders offers hands-on experiences about a variety of nature topics. Each child must be accompanied by an adult. Each program includes an outdoor experience; please dress for the weather. 

Tuesdays & Wednesdays, 9:30 - 10:30 a.m.
$4 per child per class 
(Free for adults and young siblings ages 3 and under)
Pre-Registration is required at least 24-hours prior to program.

May 10 & May 11, "Wiggly Worms at Work" - Explore the life of a worm and the places they live as we dig up a few of these wiggly creatures to hold and enjoy. We will then make worm homes for our new friends!

June 15 & June 15, "Hoppin' Fun" - Hop on down to the pond to find frogs and their friends in the water. Children (with the parents' help) will use nets to catch these amazing animals for a close-up look and discovery adventure. Dress for mud! 

July 12 & July 13, "Water Play" - It's time to get busy watering! Children will use our misting bottles and take a journey around the garden and trails to help out our growing plants. We may get a little wet on our walk, so please dress appropriately.

August 9 & August 10, "Wee Rock n' Roll" - Come take a walk as we collect nesting supplies for a homemade nest. Participants will build a nest that can be taken home for added fun in your backyard as you watch for lodgers to move in.


Explore Our Activity Guides

Flip through our digital guides for information on events, programs, activities and more.

Public Environmental Education Activity Guide
May - August 2022

School Environmental Education Guide
2021 - 2022 School Year

Retzer Nature Center Activity Sheets

Download our digital activity sheets and enjoy them when you visit Retzer Nature Center.

Resources for Teaching Outdoors

Helping educators, parents and caregivers use the outdoors to enrich learning and extend beyond the walls of a classroom. 

Resources, Projects and Ideas:




Virtual Lessons and Videos

Learn from Park and Land Use staff about ecology, wildlife, land management, recycling, waste reduction, science applications, water conservation and more!

Flora
Busting Backyard Invasives
Nearby Nature: Plant Shapes - Earth Week Edition
Virtual Wildflowers Hike - Earth Week Edition
Native Nature - Earth Week Edition

Fauna
The Power of Pollination
Backyard Birding - Earth Week Edition
Turtles vs Tortoises - Earth Week Edition

Sustainability
Understanding Soils:  What Homeowners Need to Know for their Basements
Super Soils: Composting at Home - Earth Week Edition
Nature Storytime & Craft - Earth Week Edition
 - Reading "What Matters?" by Alison Hughs and Holly Hatam

Ask the Experts Series on Facebook
Experts from Waukesha County Parks and Land Use are joined Retzer's Facebook page live to answer your burning questions!
Watch the recordings:

-How to Green Your Lawn Q&A (Jan. 2021)
-Backyard Birding Q&A (Feb. 2021)
-Well & Septic Q&A (Mar. 2021)
-Invasive Species Q&A (Apr. 2021)
-Rain Gardens and Rain Barrels Q&A (May 2021)

Environmental Education COVID-19 Response:

All visitors are encouraged to consider CDC guidelines to protect employees and members of the public from the COVID-19 virus. Waukesha County Parks is taking steps to provide a safe learning environment, including conducting programs outside when possible, enhanced cleaning, and social distancing measures. Programs may be conducted completely outdoors, so dress for the weather. In case of inclement weather, the program may be cancelled or moved indoors.