Every October, the Hawthorn Glen nature center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, transforms for two nights in the spirit of Halloween. Instead of highlighting the scarier aspects of the holiday, however, Milwaukee Recreation staff put on a program that encourages young participants to learn about nature by meeting some wild but friendly creatures.
Costumed tour guides lead the way through the woods to eight elaborately decorated stations along a luminaria-lighted trail, and at each stop, actors dressed up as spiders, millipedes, birds and other forest residents perform funny, educational skits and interact with the kids. This year, the theme is “Nature’s Engineers,” so kids can learn where some spectacular structures have their roots, meet an old-school web designer and get to know some problem solvers that use “trowel” and error. Previous themes have included Nature’s Outcasts, Villains of Nature and Green Halloween. In addition to the interactive journey through the trees, participants can enjoy themed refreshments and make crafts based on their experience.
Now in its 20th year, the event gives Milwaukee Recreation staff an annual challenge to come up with the most creative costumes, sets and performances. And every year, kids get the chance to learn that some of the beasts that haunt their dreams aren’t that scary after all.
Danielle Taylor is the Associate Editor for Parks & Recreation.