South Shore Park Earth Day turns 20
May 1, 2016
By Katherine Keller
When the six-foot bull snake was brandished above their heads, horror and alarm registered on some of the young faces. Other faces shone with curiosity, delight, and wonder. St. Thomas Aquinas Academy students were captivated by Troy Abuya’s Wisconsin Snakes presentation at the 2016 South Shore Park Earth Day event that marked its 20th anniversary on April 18.
St. Thomas Aquinas Academy students were captivated by Troy Abuya’s Wisconsin Snakes presentation at the 2016 South Shore Park Earth Day event that marked its 20th anniversary on April 18. PHOTO Katherine KellerIt cannot be said that boredom characterized the experience of the 530 students who participated in the 11 different natural science presentations in the pavilion or outdoors among the trees.
Students from Burdick, Clement Avenue, Fernwood Montessori, Lowell, St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, Trowbridge, and Woodlands elementary schools participated in science activities that ranged from viewing water organisms through microscopes, to designing a sewer system, to learning how to identify the park’s trees. Students in grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 attended. Students from Lowell and Woodlands picked up litter in the park.
Clement Avenue student Camila De Vincenti said she liked discovering how invasive mussels affect Lake Michigan. “I saw the more mussels there were in the cup, the cleaner the water became. They are where the colder water is,” she said. The experiment that demonstrated cold water is heavier than hot water was also compelling.
The mussels and water temperature experiments were part of the presentation, “Mussel Beach—the crushing weight of invasive species,” by Dr. Carmen Aguilar and Dr. Russ Cuhel of the UWM—Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science.
Celebrating Bea Reinders
Bea Reinders was honored with a cake during the adults’ lunch break. She is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service.
Reinders played a key role since 1997 in the South Shore Park Earth Day. The first year she assisted by helping prepare lunch, but because she was retired, she realized she could do more work behind the scenes to help those organizers with full-time jobs. In the following years she contacted and scheduled presenters.
“Bea arranges all the presenters and the food for the luncheon. Bea has gotten monetary donations to pay for the luncheon…Bea knows how to make something wonderful with no money,” said Diane Piedt.
Like Reinders, Piedt is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service at the event. She was teaching at Trowbridge the first five years, helping arrange her school’s participation. For the past 15 years, she coordinated the schools and set up workshop rotation schedules. “Two Fernwood teachers started [the South Shore Park Earth Day] event, who at the time were part of a group called the Coalition of Bay View Schools. It began because the two Fernwood Elementary School teachers wanted children to get initiated to South Shore Park, which is what they did the first year,” Reinders said recounting the event’s history. “The mission is to educate children and inspire them to pursue careers in science and environmental studies.”
The first year the only activity was strolling through South Shore Park.
“The second year the teachers wanted to enrich the experience of walking in the park, and that year, the first presenters were included in the event. They were located in the park. The children stopped at an exhibit to learn about recycling—how to make paper out of garbage, for example,” Reinders said.
“There would be no Earth Day (at the pavilion) if it were not for the support of the principals,” Reinders said. The principals allowed their students to attend the event.
The presenters, also volunteers, don’t charge for their service. Schools pay no fee or admission to participate in the event.
“Once the presenters came, they were sold. They wanted to come back again the following year,” Reinders said. “I’ve had a passion for this and the people who present. They have a passion for passing their knowledge down to children. You have to have passion.”
Reinders said that each year some of the children make a special effort to thank the organizers.
“One year a boy said me, ‘You do this because you love us.’ That will bring a tear,” she said.
2016 Earth Day South Shore Park Presenters
Mussel Beach—The crushing weight of invasive species
UWM—Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science
Drs. Carmen Aguilar and Russ Cuhel
A Walk in the Park—Identifying trees in South Shore Park
Lora Loke and Wolfgang Siebeneich
Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center
Creatures of the Water—What creatures are in the water?
Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center
Develop a Sewer System
Susan Coyle and Cari Roper, MMSD
Slither, Walk, Hop—Meet Wisconsin snakes, a turtle and a toad close-up
Snakes of Wisconsin
Troy Abuya, Naturalist
Water and Air Pollution
Samm Posnanski, Water Resources Management Specialist, Wisconsin DNR
What Is the Buzz about Bees?
Charlie Koenen, Apiarist
Wonders of Wetlands
Lynne E. Whelan, U. S. Army Corps of Engineer
If you would like more information about sending your students to the 2017 South Shore Park Earth event or if you would like to present, please contact Frank Mulvey,
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