Connecting Kids with Water in Madison Parks

Madison FUN Lake Explorers

Connecting children with our Yahara Watershed

Grant Feature #7: Madison Friends of Urban Nature (FUN)

American author, scientist, and conservationist Aldo Leopold once said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Clean Lakes Alliance knows connections to the land and to our waters begin to develop in childhood. Through a Clean Lakes Grant awarded for 2018, Madison Friends of Urban Nature (FUN) is connecting families and children to nature and our Yahara Lakes. Clean Lakes Alliance contributed $1,250 to the effort, helping to expand outdoor learning opportunities that can lead to future generations of caring and knowledgeable lake stewards.

Aldo Leopold Quote

Madison FUN background

Madison FUN is working in partnership with Madison Parks, and other local environmental groups to co-sponsor year-round free nature outings. The excursions focus on bringing nature and water-related education to people of all ages. These experiences provide a way to get children and their families to appreciate the environment.

The program recently expanded to 96 outings per year at various sites throughout the Yahara River Watershed. Past event sites include various lakefront parks, such as Tenney, Turville, Warner, and UW Lakeshore Preserve. Additional past sites include Starkweather Creek and wetlands such as Cherokee Marsh and Edna Taylor.

Wetland restoration, aquatic dipping, life beneath the ice, geology of the Yahara Basin, and citizen science are just a few of the water-related learning experiences featured in the past. Each educational outing averages 20 participants, with some presentations involving more than 50 children and families.

Volunteers from Madison FUN also provide educational resources for Sherman Middle School and for the Warner Park Kids Summer Camp. Children are given opportunities to discover Starkweather Creek from a canoe, explore the Native American Lake Monona Water Walk, and attend Goodman Family Fun Nights. One of the children’s favorite activities is dipping for tadpoles and other underwater surprises!

How will the grant expand the program?

The grant will help to fund the recently expanded program by providing nominal honoraria for the guides of each outing. It will also help fund additional resources to educate children and families about the Yahara Watershed. Madison FUN plans to purchase the following engaging materials with the Clean Lakes Grant:

Madison FUN Materials

  • Adult and child-size binoculars
  • Butterfly nets
  • Bug collectors
  • Dipping nets for tadpoles and other aquatic creatures
  • USB microscopes and endoscopes
  • Pocket LED loupes (magnification devices)
  • Secchi disks
  • Water clarity tubes
  • Pond dipping equipment
  • Nature and water-related children’s books
  • Other water quality and citizen science tools

Broader impact of the project

Madison FUN and Madison Parks are working to engage children and their families through educational nature recreation. The program will provide hundreds of people an opportunity to learn about our Yahara Watershed every year. Focusing on nature allows children to develop an appreciation of our lakes, and in turn want to connect with and protect our waters.

Thank you to Madison FUN and Madison Parks for bringing this program to the children and families of the Yahara Watershed! Clean Lakes Alliance feels privileged to invest in bringing conservation and environmental education to southern Wisconsin.

Upcoming Madison FUN events

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