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Palmyra Environmental Learning Center

Milwaukee Recreation is transitioning the operation of the Palmyra Environmental Learning Center over to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association. While PELC will no longer fall under our Outdoor Education program umbrella of Milwaukee Recreation, the department will continue to advertise trip opportunities so educators know that PELC is still available for students to experience, as it is a true natural treasure.

Palmyra Environmental Learning Center may be scheduled for 4 hours or less between 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Teachers may choose to bring bag lunches or cook hot dogs and sausages over the fire. A fire ring and wood are provided upon request. Please provide your own cooking utensils. There is no extra charge for winter tobogganing (snow conditions permitting). Students must wear appropriate clothing. All programs can be selected any time of the year (except Pond Study). If you do not see what you would like from our program choices, please contact us. We will try to accommodate your educational needs.

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  Glacial Geology

A guided hike will show the effects of the most recent ice age. Imagine what a glacier standing a mile high (not wide) could do to the land and see how the land changed in response! The hike transverses moraines allowing students to learn what makes a kettle, and in some areas of the forest view glacial erratics. We will discover how the last continental glacier still affects our daily lives.

  Pond Study

Water is a vital natural resource and we emphasize the importance of respecting aquatic habitats. ALL participants will be expected to enter an ephemeral kettle pond filled with many wonderful & exciting species. This habitat can be very easily damaged and is available only in spring: if there is sufficient water in the pond; and, only to a small number of groups - first come, first served. Come learn the old fashioned way - get wet and muddy! THIS PROGRAM IS ONLY FOR THIRD GRADE AND ABOVE.

  Typifying Trees

Learn different methods of identifying trees; by using their leaves, leaf buds, bark, overall branching patterns, flowers and/or fruit. Students will explore the different uses of the wood and other "products" made from trees. Hike topics include the importance of trees worldwide, how to age trees and tree diseases.

  Trees & Birds

Students will also learn how different trees attract and provide habitats for various species of birds and other wildlife.  Participants will explore the different used for wood and other products made from trees, as well as their importance worldwide.  Naturalists will also discuss how to attract birds and create feeding stations.

  Finding Feathered Friends

Different birds call Wisconsin “home” at different times of the year. Many Wisconsin birds are migratory and will not always be present in late fall, winter, and early spring. Students will learn about the habits of birds and their habitats. There is a feeding station at camp to explore how to attract birds.

  Edible and Non-edible Plants

Students will be introduced to many native and exotic plants growing in the state forest. Learn how to categorize plants as edible, medicinal, non-edible, or poisonous, while emphasizing the importance of NOT eating unfamiliar plants.


During a guided hike we will discuss the benefits of insects and visually identify as many species as we can, discussing each one’s role/job in its habitat.  We will NOT be collecting/killing insects as they are far more important to us alive.  We will attempt to keep a running list of insects sighted and send the list back with the teacher.

  Native American Lore

This program presents an overview of Native American life. Topics include clothing, food gathering, medicine, and respect of Mother Earth. Programs can be tailored to concentrate on specific areas such as food preparation - “How are you going to cook that?” “How do you save the leftovers?” “Where do you get fresh fruits and vegetables in the middle of winter?”

  Instrument Study

During a hike in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, students will be introduced to several scientific instruments and the field measurements taken by natural scientists: degree of slope, DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) of trees, tree height, air and soil temperatures, wind speed, and find cardinal points with a compass. For Grades 5-8 only. Basic math skills are also a prerequisite.

  I Want to Discover

For K, 1st & 2nd Graders: A gently guided, fun, journey through the meadows and/or forests of the KMSF. Inspired by the interests of the young child to promote & nurture a desire for a continuing love, care and further exploration of the natural world and the child’s place in it.

  Winter in the Forest and Winter Survival

Come see winter in its full beauty by enjoying a walk in the winter forest.  Plants, animals and human techniques to survive will be discussed.  Please dress in warm layers.

  Animal Tracking

Identifying and/or recognizing animal movement, often referred to as tracking, incorporates much more than just looking for footprints. If conditions are not good for animals to make tracks (dry ground, frozen ground/no snow), tracks will be hard to find. There are other means of tracking animals; through signs of habitation, food and scat.


This program concentrates on seeing the surrounding forests and fields of the KMSF like many animals do: with limited color vision. We will also introduce different methods of concealment which will help produce camouflage.


Much of this part of Wisconsin was once covered by several types of prairie. We will view the various stages in the “life” of a prairie. Various plants and their uses will be discussed including the importance of this ecosystem in our everyday life. Fall and late spring are best to see plants.

  Reading the Landscape and Conservation

On a hike through the KMSF, students will observe the visual clues of past use of the land at KMSF.  They will observe it’s use for farming and now its recreational use and affect on the land (the effects of pollution, erosion and soil compacting).  Observation of animal habitats and vegetation will indicate further land usage.  Conservation, preservation, and land ethics will be discussed, as well as the use of rain gardens and gray water.  It is hoped that these observations and discussions will encourage students to ponder their use of resources.

  Natural Communities

Students will hike trails of the KMSF to observe various communities that exist there, comparing their urban community with these communities.  They will begin to notice the similarities and differences of these communities including the habitats of animals and humans.  Comparison of water resources and used, food accessibility and origins will be noted.  Modes of transportation and mobility and methods of communication used by the inhabitants will also be discussed.

  Naturalist’s Choice

Combining material from any of the above mentioned programs, this program highlights the beauty found in the KMSF by discussing anything that the students, teachers or naturalists find of interest along our hike. If advised before the program, our naturalists will relate the hike to current or upcoming curriculum. This program is never the same!

Additional programs include: Animal Homes, Biologically Inspired Inventions, Communities, Discovery, Fall in the Forest, Forest Succession, Senses, Spring in the Forest, Touch Much Trust Walk, Wetland Study, Why Conservation?



(262) 495-2622


E. Bluff St.
Palmyra, WI 53156

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