Nature Net

Nature Net is a not-for-profit initiative that provides “one-stop shopping” for environmental education resources for teachers and families of South-Central Wisconsin and beyond!

You’ll find nature centers, museums and other providers in Southern Wisconsin and all sorts of free ideas, suggestions and free educational resources on how to explore your local environment.

Nature Net has a great breakdown of local summer camps (including Aldo Leopold Nature Center, the Madison Children’s Museum, Olbrich Gardens, and Henry Vilas Zoo).

Wondering what to do with your children this summer? Looking for a family activity that costs nothing, has a variety of convenient locations, and is scheduled exactly when you want it? Do you enjoy the thrill of discovery and the fresh air? Get ready for the Summer 2011 Nature Passport!

Nature Passport Includes:

For Kids…
Each child receives a special Nature Passport containing pages to draw and write about their amazing journeys at various Nature Passport sites! This year’s theme also includes a “Movin’ Mission” to encourage healthy, physically-active kids.

For Parents…
Look at the Parent’s Guide for fun facts and explanations to help spark your kids’ imagination and answer those big questions like: How do we see color? And don’t forget to sign up for Nature Net’s FREE Nature Net News to stay up dated on area nature events and activities!

(Go here for info on where to pick up a Nature Passport):

For more information about Nature Net, visit the “About” section on the website or find it on Facebook.

Legacy Academy

Since my family will be moving to Fitchburg soon, I thought I’d start checking out some of the fun things to do down south.  A couple weeks ago, Dahlia and I met up with a friend at Legacy Academy, which I’d been hearing good things about.

Legacy Academy is basically a huge gym stuffed to the gills with toys, climbing equipment, and various other amusements.  It is aimed at kids from 18 months up to about 12 years.  There is a room that is obviously meant for older kids, with video games and arcade games, as well as tables full of board games and coloring books.  There are also indoor swing sets, a basketball hoop, climbing ropes, and some bikes and trikes.

In all honesty, Dahlia was a little overwhelmed by all the options available to her!  I would say Legacy Academy is really more suited to kids age three and up.  There were plenty of things around that were NOT babyproof.  Dahlia ran directly in front of an older kid in a swing a couple of times, and she also was looking eagerly at the marbles included with Hungry Hungry Hippos before I took that as a cue to head out.  There is little to no authority figure watching over the place — one guy who comes out of his office to take your payment, then heads right back in — so parents are really on their own.  I personally don’t have a problem with this at all, but a couple of the parents there that day were not watching their kids at all.  (Actually, two of them were monopolizing the basketball court, which made me roll my eyes.)

Legacy Academy offers a couple of different options for people who want to throw birthday parties there.  You can either rent the whole place to yourself, or you can have your party during one of their general open gym times and save quite a bit of cash.  It seems like it would be a great place to have a party for older kids — like I said, the under-threes are probably going to be a little overwhelmed.  I feel duty-bound to report, though, that a friend of mine had scheduled her daughter’s birthday party at Legacy Academy and found out at the very last minute that they had accidentally double booked, so she had to scramble to find another venue.  The manager apparently claimed that it had never happened before, but it seems worth mentioning.

All in all, we will definitely be going back to Legacy Academy once we move to Fitchburg.  I’m interested to see how Dahlia enjoys it as she gets a little bit older.

Legacy Academy is located at 2881 Commerce Park Drive, Suite G, in Fitchburg — near Star Cinema.  They currently have Open Gym from 10 to 12 and 12:30 to 2:30 Monday through Friday, for a cost of $5 for each child over the age of 1.  Beginning June 13th, open gym hours will be 1 to 3 Monday through Thursday and 10 to 12 on Friday, so as to accommodate their summer camp program.  Birthday party rates start at $150 for a two hour party with up to 80 attendees, or your party can be held during an Open Gym time for the standard rate of $5 per child.  You can contact Legacy Academy at (608) 270-9977 or email Manager@LegacyAcademy.info for more information about parties, summer camp programs, after school programs, and Parents Night Out programs, or see their website at legacyacademy.info.

Summer Camps at Madison Children’s Museum

Enroll your child to be part of the first Madison Children’s Museum summer day camps offered at the North Hamilton location. This year’s camp themes include history, science, drama, food, and more!

Camps are available for children entering grades 2–6 in the fall.

Many camps are already full, so sign up soon! Visit the museum’s summer camp page for more information.

Keva Sports Center Sports Camp

Our spring break experience at Keva Sports Center left much to be desired. Here’s our story, you can judge for yourself.

Day 1:
The spring break started out well. Keva’s camp was for ages 5 and up, and when we arrived Cass found two other kids from her preschool. Excellent! We were signed up for two days—day one was general team sports, day two was a field trip to Badger Gymnastics. Everyone was friendly enough. Cass sat down in the group circle to meet with the counselors, and I was on my way.

When I picked Cass up, she was sitting watching a group of older boys “wrestle”* each other. That struck me as sort of odd: 1) wrestling isn’t a team sport; 2) it wasn’t on the list of sports Keva said my child was going to learn (soccer, volleyball, basketball, dodgeball (yes, dodgeball!)); 3) I didn’t like Cass watching older kids be so physically aggressive with each other, since the goal of what they were doing wasn’t to score or shoot a ball but to get a person to fall down.

On the drive home, Cass told me they ran out of snack. Cass also mentioned that she hurt her leg playing kickball when she blocked a ball. She said she was ok, and I figured it was par for the course at sports camp.

Day 2:
I packed Cass an extra snack in her lunch. Cass was excited for gymnastics and the chance to show off her moves to her classmates.

At around 3pm, camp called to tell me that Cass had hurt her toe but that they put a band aid on it, and she was ok. No problem, I said, and thanked them for the call.

When I picked Cass up, Cass was again sitting and watching. Campmates were playing soccer. Her sock was off and she was not walking on her foot. While we were signing out, I asked her how gymnastics went that morning. “We didn’t go,” Cass said.

I asked a counselor what happened. She told me that when they got to Badger Gymnastics, the gym was closed because the owner of Badger Gymnastics forgot to be there, so they had to come back. I asked why they didn’t tell the parents this, and why I had to learn this from my daughter. She explained that it wasn’t her fault.

When we got home, I took off Cass’ sock to see that she had stubbed her toe. I rinsed it off, put on a fresh band-aid, and she literally ran off down the hallway. Now, I have no doubt that Cass whined when she injured it. But I would hope that the counselors have experience with 5 year olds who can be overdramatic when they get injured. I wished they would have asked her to walk it off, instead of letting her literally sit on the sidelines for 4-plus hours of camp (the injury happened around noon).

The next day I got an email from Tracy, the Youth Director, saying that she heard I was upset at check out; she explained that it wasn’t their fault that Badger Gymnastics screwed up and no one was there. The email threw me for a loop. I called Tracy, and Tracy reiterated again that it was not Keva’s fault. I told her that while I understood that it was not Keva’s fault, it was still Keva’s responsibility. Did Tracy think Keva responded to what happened as best as possible? Did you teach the kids any gymnastics moves, even a somersault, when you got back to Keva? Did you have any plans to tell the parents so they didn’t have to learn it from their kids? Can you understand that we signed up for this camp package because it included gymnastics in hopes of using this sport my daughter likes to entice her to learn about more sports? Silence on the other end of the phone.

I asked Tracy if there was anything Keva could do for me. Tracy couldn’t think of anything. Nope, there was nothing they could do for me.

The next day, Cass got a welt on her leg from where the kickball hit her.

*When I write “wrestle”, I don’t actually mean the sport of wrestling. From what I saw, the two boys were on all fours, each one trying to pull the other’s arm out from under him so that the other boy would fall on his face. I know little about wrestling, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t part of the sport.

Keva Sports Center is located at 8312 Forsythia Street, Middleton. Check the website for more information on camps, leagues, and classes.

Aldo Leopold Nature Center Camps

The Aldo Leopold Nature Center is outdoor heaven. Ponds, marshes, trees. Frogs, birds, bugs. Too bad they don’t have classes for adults. But they do have summer camps for ages 2 to 12.

Cass just finished her first experience with Aldo Leopold through two days at their spring break camp. She played in the mud, looked for animals, and learned outdoor skills.

The two instructors we met were almost the opposite that I’d expect from camp counselors. They were easy-going. None of this high-octane “are we going to have fun?” energy blast of the usual camps. It was more about fostering an appreciation of nature and a comfort in exploring the earth. Outdoor discovery is not a “crazy adventure” but a daily part of life. This attitude fits with Aldo Leopold Nature Center’s mission: To teach the student to see the land, understand what she sees, and enjoy what she understands.

Summer camps run from June 13th to August 26th. There are a range of programs — from one hour for the 2-3 year olds; to half-days, full-days, and full-weeks for 4 to 12 year olds. And there are three overnighters for ages 8 and up.

Find out more, and sign up for the summer, at www.naturenet.com/alnc/.