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Aldo Leopold Nature Center Wonderbugs program goes “on the road” with help from Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant

Second in a series of articles on local charitable organizations supported by grants awarded by the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation through American Family Insurance Championship proceeds.

Since 1994 the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, a natural oasis tucked away not too far from a busy street in Monona, Wisconsin, has provided visitors of all ages a chance to engage with nature. By providing various learning opportunities and programs, the Center seeks to demonstrate how all living things are inter-connected.

Aldo Leopold Nature Center offers many different opportunities, including at-school and after-school programs, field trips, scout programs, special events, summer nature camps and birthday parties.

One of the most popular is the Wonderbugs program for preschoolers.

Education starts early

“Teaching the next generation of leaders in land stewardship and respect for nature starts early,” said Cara Erickson, Aldo Leopold Nature Center marketing and communications manager. “When children become engaged with nature at an early age, they go on to care about the Earth and the environment throughout their lives.”

Each week at the Nature Center, the Wonderbugs program explores a different seasonal topic during a 75-minute session, and gives preschoolers and their parents or caregivers a chance to interact in a natural setting. Activities could include hikes, outdoor exploration, music, puppetry, songs, stories and more.

These activities are designed to foster a sense of wonder for the natural world and respect and admiration for the land.

Expanding access to Wonderbugs with help from grant

One priority for the Nature Center has been expanding access to the Wonderbugs program for children whose families face financial or transportation challenges.

They applied for a grant after the PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship last year to help fund a mobile option for the Wonderbugs program.

"With the support of the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, we’ve been able to bring our popular Wonder Bugs Preschool Program on the road!” said Erickson.

Erickson explained going mobile ensures Aldo Leopold Nature Center can provide once-a-month, nature-based programming for children at Play & Learn sites throughout the area for children who might not otherwise have access to activities at the Nature Center. Just like the Wonderbugs program offered at the Nature Center, this introduces them to the magic and wonder of the natural world through exploration and play.

“With engaging, hands-on topics led by talented environmental educators, Wonder Bugs on the Road brings the opportunity to connect with nature to a diverse representation of children and their parents and caregivers in our community,” said Erickson.

Groups of 10-12 children listen to stories, sing songs, and are encouraged to explore and engage with hand-held objects like animal skins, skulls, pine cones and rocks, for example.

“For some children, this is their only access to these kinds of programs,” said Erickson. We’re grateful to the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation for helping us bring this program to them.”

Video and learn more

Check out the video below of a Wonder Bugs on the Road program in action at Centro Hispano in Madison, Wisconsin.

Learn more about the Aldo Leopold Nature Center and the good work they do in the community.

In just its first three years, the American Family Insurance Championship has provided proceeds of more than $4.7 million to 185 charitable organizations through the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation.