Community Firefly Hike at Indian Lake County Park Hwy 19, Cross Plains
July 11, 2015
7:30-10 p.m. 

Let the kids stay up late tonight.

Join Get Kids Outside on an easy hike and then cook some marshmallows and make a firefly craft while we wait for the show. Why do they blink? What makes them glow? We may even catch a few. Bring water, bug dope, a flashlight and a clear container for catching bugs if you like. Hike starts at 7:30 p.m. from the parking lot. Cost is $5 per person, $15 for family of four. Tickets are available at Contact Diane Schwartz at 608-358-8314, Click here for map. 

Get Kids Outside believes that nature is the greatest healer and teacher. We create community through public hikes and events that heal our hearts, calm our minds, and remind us that we are more alike than different. We provide outdoor opportunities that increase health and wellness and promote learning among children and families of color. All proceeds will provide more outdoor opportunities for kids. If you are inspired by this work, please donate


The Night Primeval at Cherokee Marsh: Christ the Solid Rock and Madison Audubon Society


When the marsh wakes up, it does so with a riot of prehistoric sounds. Cranes bugle. Chorus frogs sing, blackbirds scold, and the woodcock peents, just like they have done for thousands of years. Even if you never see anything, the sounds tell us that life is everywhere. On April 17, members of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church joined the Madison Audubon Society on their annual flight of the woodcock hike at Cherokee Marsh.


The American Woodcock.

The woodcock is a funny little bird that has an elaborate mating dance. First, he walks around on the ground and makes a buzzy, peenting sound. Then, he darts into the air about 200 feet. On the way back down, he twists and twirls all the while whistling and fluttering his wings. It’s quite the visual and auditory spectacle and well worth a trip to the marsh just for the possibility of seeing this bird. I had promoted this trip to the church as a woodcock hike, so I was hoping that he would perform. I had my fingers crossed. Like clockwork, the male woodcock started peenting at 8:15 p.m. He was about 75 yards away so we couldn’t see him on the ground. Last year, he stood right on the trail about 25 yards away so we all got a good look at him through the spotting scope. Levi Wood, the Audubon guide, suspected that a recent prescribed burn opened up a lot more peenting territory making the manicured trail less attractive. It was too dark to see him flying, but we heard him twittering on the way down. When a bat flew by, we thought for a moment it was the woodcock, but no luck. Despite not seeing the little bird with the big peent, it was still a magical night. Just being present to this annual ritual is a gift, especially when that gift is shared with others. What did the kids think? They weren’t too impressed with the woodcock, mainly because they couldn’t see him. They were much more impressed with an American toad that hopped across the path. A boy picked him up so everyone got a good look. We also talked a lot about snakes and saw a really tiny brown snake slither through the grass. One girl was pretty freaked out about the snakes, but I assured her that snakes will not harm her. If I did this hike again with kids, I might play the video for them in advance so that they knew what to listen for. It takes time to hone listening skills and patience. Bird watching is great for that. Kids need to learn that real nature doesn’t always meet our expectations. That may be disappointing at first, but it makes the moment of discovery that much sweeter. Plus now, we have a reason to go back again next year. The woodcock dances through the first part of May. Diane Schwartz lead outings at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison, Wisconsin. To volunteer, contact Diane at 

How to Make Hot Chocolate Outside!

Winter and hot chocolate go together.
This year, enjoy hot chocolate while you’re playing outside.
We cook outside during the summer so why not winter?
There is nothing better and your kids will remember it forever.

It’s easy and fun.


You will need: images
1. Portable Coleman Stove or similar with fuel
2. Pan for water
3. Cups
4. Lighter or matches
5. Cocoa mix
6. Water
7. Spoons
8. Towels/rags to clean up spills (optional)

You can buy small gas stoves at REI, Dicks, Target or any outdoor supply store for about $30. Portable stoves are easy to use and you’ll have hot water within minutes. Propane stoves like the one shown are great because you don’t have the mess of fuel.

DSC00093Put all your supplies into a plastic bin to transport to your event. If there isn’t a picnic table handy, search for a flat rock or create a place in the snow for your stove. The kids can make a spot for you. When you’re ready, fire up the stove and serve. I always recommend that you let the kids work up a sweat first before enjoying the drink. They’ll appreciate it more and they’ll be warm enough to stand around for a few minutes.

If you’re worried about your hands getting cold, just pop a hand warmer in your pocket. You can buy 6 pair for about $10 or individual packs for $1. Why suffer with cold hands when there’s an easy solution?

By creating wonderful outdoor experiences, kids are more likely to get off the couch and into the outdoors. Watch this video of two young people enjoying their first outdoor hot cocoa. You can tell that they’re having a blast and you can bet that more people will come on the next trip.

You can find Diane planning for her next trip at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church on Madison’s east side. 

Firefly Hike at Indian Lake County Park

firefliesJoin Get Kids Outside on Friday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. for a magical Fireflyhike at Indian Lake County Park, 8183 Hwy 19, Cross Plains, WI.
We’ll take an easy one-mile hike around the lake and then, as the sun sets, we’ll start to see hundreds of fireflies. Why do they blink? What makes them glow? We may even catch a few. If there’s interest, we’ll build a fire and cook some marshmallows. Firefly Information
Time: 7:30 pm – 9:30 p.m. Meet in the parking lot at Indian Lake at 7:30 p.m. If you arrive late, go the ‘warming shelter’ by the sledding hill.
Cost: $10/family suggested donation or donate what you can. We will pass the hat to cover leader expenses.
Location: Indian Lake County Park, 8183 Hwy 19, Cross Plains WI 53528. Take Hwy 12 west to Hwy 19 west toward Mazomanie. The entrance to the park is off of 19 about 3 miles from hwy 12.
Bring water, bug dope, a flashlight and a clear container for catching bugs-check the recycling bin for glass jars. I will have bug dope for those who don’t have it and a few containers.
Dogs: Well-behaved dogs okay on a leash are okay.
Transportation: On your own. Meet at the park.
Waiver: Adults/Parents will be asked to sign a waiver when we get to the park. All children must be accompanied by a parent/adult.
RSVP so that I know that you’re coming 24 hours in advance. Cell phone coverage is spotty at Indian Lake so I will not be able to get messages at the park.  
Cancellation Policy: In case of bad weather, I will send out an email to those who said yes to the hike by 6 pm. I will also post on my Facebook page. 

Hope to see you there.


Top 10 Fall Adventures with Kids in Wisconsin

It’s autumn in Wisconsin and nothing is better than that. Get outside with your kids this fall and create memories to last a lifetime.  Here are a few of my favorite fall outings with links to help you create your own memorable adventures. Have fun and write to let me know your own favorites.

images-11. Hayrides: Kids love hayrides and so do adults. They are fun, relaxing and old fashioned. In our fast paced world, it’s delightful to slow down and take a ride in a tractor or horse drawn wagon. Contact your local parks department for hayrides or search the internet. Many are free or very low cost. The City of Madison offers low cost Hayrides and your town may as well. Many organizations host haunted hayrides like MacKenzie Environmental Education Center and Schumacher Farm Park. Halloween events in Wisconsin are everywhere.

images-62. Corn Mazes: Get lost and then found in a corn maze. Go to Wisconsin Corn Mazes to find a corn maze near you. I’m going to Mayr Corn Maze in a few weeks so I can let you know about that one. It’s haunted so that will fun. Many, like Treinen Farm’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, also offer other activities such as pumpkin picking, petting zoos and food. The Keep Wisconsin Warm Cool Fund’s Corn Maze in Fitchburg serves as a fundraiser. So, if you’re looking to help keep people warm this winter, attend this maze.   Continue reading

March Mudness at Cherokee Marsh: Tips on hiking with kids on a muddy day


Stump standers. Show kids how to enjoy nature. Photo by Emily Kuntz.

Forget Basketball.
March is all about mud, sandhill cranes and those glorious first warm days.

A few weeks ago, I took 12 kids and two adult volunteers to Cherokee Marsh for some mudilicious fun. We also had fun tromping on the ice, playing with sticks, spotting sandhill cranes and soaking up the warmth of the day. Here are a few tips for a happy mud-filled day.

1) Carry plastic bags: If possible, make sure everyone has proper footwear before heading out. We had two girls with woefully inadequate footwear who complained the whole time – to no avail. In the future, I will always have a few plastic bags on hand. Kids can slip their feet into them before putting on their shoes. The bags will keep their feet mostly dry.

2) Ignore the whiners: No sooner had we gotten out of the van and a few kids were complaining about the mud. It didn’t take long for them to realize that mud is a lot of fun.

3) Get Dirty: Don’t worry if the kids get a little dirty. A bit of mud will not hurt them at all.

We are here at Cherokee Marsh.

We are here at Cherokee Marsh. Show don’t tell.

Teach kids to be bold in the face of sloppiness and how to prepare for it.

4) Don’t forget the binoculars: In a group of 12, it’s good to have about 3-4 pair.

5) Do Nothing: Don’t worry about “doing” anything on your hike. Some kids just don’t get what to do outside so you have to show them. I picked up a stick and started poking at ice. We looked at the ice and how the ice was melting. We stomped on it and inspected leaves stuck in the ice. We spotted birds and listened to sandhill cranes. We found a patch of moss, just starting to grow. We felt its softness and warmth and enjoyed seeing a spot of green color in a sea of brown and white. At the end of the hike, I laid on my back on the warm cement. Several kids joined me. We looked at clouds and listened for birds while soaking up the warmth. Give kids time to invent their own activities. By just hanging out and doing nothing, Matt started mixing up water, mud

and leaves in a cup to make a delightful mud stew. Other kids just enjoyed their snack. There is no need to plan activities all the time.

Are we having fun yet? No caption needed here.

Are we having fun yet? No caption needed here.

6. Have Fun! Be enthusiastic and show them how to look and listen. They will follow your lead. And don’t worry if you don’t

think you know enough about the outdoors to lead a hike. All you need is a good attitude and the willingness to explore. The kids really don’t care if you know the names of birds or animals. What they care about is having fun and exploring. You can also go back and look up the animals and see if you can find them in a book or on the internet. If you need help, just send me an email at I know you can do it.

How do you teach kids how to have fun in the mud? Post your ideas. 

You can find Diane planning for bike club this summer and developing plans for new programs in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact her with ideas on how to get kids outside. 

Top Outdoor Spring Break Adventures that all Kids will love!

UnknownGuest Post by Ken Myers

Spring Break is a great time to take the kids and have an adventure. The trick is to find a vacation that everyone will like. I know because I have two children that are total opposites. Here are some suggestions for Spring Break adventures that will please everyone and create memories to last a lifetime.

images-1The Beach

When you have two, three, or more personalities in one family there is always something for each of them at the beach: building sand castles, beach combing for shells and driftwood, or reading a book while listening to the waves roll in for the laid back family members. And for those with a desire for high adventure there is surfing, body surfing, sailing, windsurfing for the older kids, snorkeling, and much more. My son loves to body surf, make sand castles, and find fiddler crabs. My daughter is more of the reader and beach comber. We are all happy when we are at the beach. Even just long walks down the beach can be great exercise. Be sure to put on lots of sunscreen and reapply frequently to avoid sunburn. It is easy for small children to get overheated and exhausted at the beach, so make sure you take lots of breaks. Most beach towns also have outdoor amusement parks for activities during the night. Boardwalks and gift shops are a fun way to get your kids out and about all week.


This is also a way to make multiple personalities happy. I know that some people do not like to rough it, but for those people there are recreational vehicles which you can rent. These vehicles have all the conveniences of home on wheels or pulled behind wheels. We like to camp near the lake which has boating, fishing, skiing, and swimming. You can also take nature walks and go hiking. There is so much fun to be had cooking and singing around the camp fire at night and it can be such a bonding experience for the whole family. There is usually so much wildlife to see when you are out in the woods as well. If your family does biking then many parks offer hike and bike trails that give a new adventurous spin on bikers familiar only with smooth city streets. Kids love skidding through the mud puddles and getting down and dirty with it.

waterparkWater Parks

There are great water parks in many cities or within driving distance from most cities around the country. Cold weather states have indoor parks. I have yet to meet a child that does not like to take a trip to the water park. From winding rivers, crashing waves, slides of all sizes, inner tubes, to kiddy pools there is something for everyone at a water park. Many of the parks let you bring in a picnic lunch while some require that you buy your food on the premises. They generally have grassy areas and lounge chairs for relaxing and picnic tables for eating. Lots of cold treats such as ice cream, ices, and cold drinks are offered all through the parks. The great thing about water parks is that they keep kids moving all day long. Swimming, climbing ladders and just playing around in the water burn off tons of energy while being exciting and fun. If a water park is too busy for your style then try tubing down a river. There are many areas that have smooth sailing for floaters and more active participants. Kids will love to paddle along the shallow water and see the sights of nature. They can make new friends and splash around. For more adventurous types you can also do water sports like white water rafting and canoeing or kayaking.

dudeDude Ranches

For the families that yearn for the old west experience there are many parts of the country that offer dude ranches as your destination. Riding horseback, learning to rope, and eating off the chuck wagon are treats for city folks. The rustic surroundings and the country life can be good for relaxing those strained city nerves. The sounds of coyotes, crickets, and owls serenading you to sleep at night can be just what the doctor ordered, along with the old cow poke strumming on his guitar and singing songs about the old west. Being able to see the stars in all their glory is a special treat as well for those of us who live in constant light pollution. Early to bed, early to rise and hard work all day might not sound like fun, but your kids will love it and learn a lot.

Ski-Tips-for-KidsSnow Skiing

Even if you are not a veteran skier there are the bunny slopes. For those that grow up in the snow this is a natural pastime but for those who live in places where they seldom see snow this could be the adventure of their lifetime. Snowboarding and sledding are some other activities that children and adults alike can enjoy. Spring break is the perfect time to visit before all the snow melts.

These are just a few of the many adventures you can take your kids on during their spring break. Take this opportunity to make memories together as a family that will last a life time. Remember that being active and involved can make even the most reluctant child enjoy their vacation. Have fun!

Author Bio:

Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.

These feet are made for biking: making memories to last a lifetime

Buba’s Feet at Vilas Beach

These feet are made for biking.
And playing in the sand,
talking to ducks,
jumping on rocks and just plain having fun.

But will they remember any of it as adults?
Will Bike for Life make a difference for these kids?

As Bike for Life’s summer session comes to a close, I’d like to think that the minds attached to the feet will carry with them positive memories and skills from the summer.

But since I can’t attach a tracking device to each child, I can only hope that one or two memories will stick with them and keep them motivated to eat healthy and to bike later in life.

Looking back at my childhood, I recall trips from elementary school and how they affected my life. A school field trip to the Milwaukee Museum in fourth grade taught me that dinosaurs were scary and cool and that there’s a great big world out there. I imagined myself on the streets of Old Milwaukee, which no doubt spurred an interest in all things historic. But more than anything, those trips gave me hope and served as an escape from a not so happy childhood (another story).

I’d like to think that the same is true for the kids that attend bike club, many of which have limited means. Bike club exposes kids to new worlds and that makes them more confident and independent. When kids bike 12.5 miles, they learn that they can go anywhere. When they get exposed to new adventures, they learn to handle the unexpected. These are skills that will serve them well in life.

Biking along Lake Monona with Monona Terrace and the State Capital in the background.

I’d also like to think they’ll remember the teachery things, such as how to make a healthy soda drink, how to cross a busy street and how to put air in their tire.

But more than likely, they’ll each take with them the one thing that touched them… perhaps biking over the bridges or under the tunnels, the elevator at Monona Terrace, or biking to the zoo. Or, they’ll remember the great snacks, or the time I fed them “bird style” because we ran out of cups (see photo below).

Regardless, I am confident that they will remember something. If I’m lucky, they’ll think that bike club was cool, just like I thought that dinosaur was cool. But more than anything, I hope they remember the joy and freedom of biking. I want them to remember that for two hours each week, they were happy. If I leave them with that, I will consider my job well done.

Thanks for the memories kids and see you on the bike trails this fall. 

Here I am feeding Soren “bird style” some of Miss Diane’s tasty homemade soda-sparkling water and a splash of apple juice – before leaving the zoo.

Diane Schwartz is the founder of Bike for Life and Get Kids Outside. You can find her working on her fall biking calendar and other fall outings for the Goodman Community Center.

Bike for Life: Tips on How to Bike with Kids

Bike for Life Crew 2012 on the Capitol City Bike Path near Goodman Community Center.

Bike for Life 2012 has started and it’s going very well, in part because of lessons learned from 2011. Here’s a run-down of 10 changes and tips for this year.

1. Three people are better than two: This year, I am fortunate to have two really great volunteers riding with me. This make a huge difference. With so many helmets to fit, tires to pump, and handle bars to adjust, having a third person really helps.

2. Don’t let the kids see, touch or smell the bikes/helmets until your ready to ride: Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but not really. This year, we start bike club with a team meeting before letting the kids see or touch the bikes and gear. Why? Because it’s impossible to get a child to listen when he or she’s got a helmet on their head or hands on a bike. Best not to fight it.

3. Teach hand signals and road safety on the bike path or next to road where you will start your ride:  Hand signals and other rules of the road make more sense when taught in context with bike path or road. Plus, you can line them up and reinforce things like leaving a lot of space between bikes. So, now we leave in two stages. We do our helmet and bike fitting at the Center and then we walk a short distance with our bikes to the path to line up.

Having fun at the Walter St. Park, our destination for the first day of bike club.

4. Avoid water bottles if you can on the first day: Kids love water bottles, but when there’s so much to do on the first day, they can become one more thing to deal with. Thankfully, the weather wasn’t hot and the ride was short. They all get their water bottles on day two. They needed them.

5. Have a behavior contract: I can’t say enough about behavior contracts. When kids and parents know what to expect, everyone rises to the occasion. If you want to see my behavior contract, please let me know and I’ll send it to you.

6. Have a destination for each trip: Kids love to bike, but they also like to play. Having a destination is part of the fun and makes them feel accomplished. On our first day, we rode to a nearby park. It wasn’t far, but the kids thought it was great. Next week, we’ll bike to the Machinery Row Bike Shop. They’re gonna love it.

7. Go over the rules, even briefly, on every trip: Repetition is 99 percent of learning. If you hear something enough, eventually it will stick. The top three rules to repeat are 1) Keep a safe distance from the bike in front of you; 2) Use verbal cues to alert others; and 3) Focus. This year, “focus” is a key part of our program. Remember kids, we do not hold conversations while riding single file on the bike path. And, we keep two hands on the handle bars.

8. Act like a team: This year, I’m reinforcing the team aspect of biking. Each session, we start with a short team building exercise. Sticking together as a team helps kids see the impact of their actions even when they are riding as an individual.

9. No Passing Allowed: I tell the kids not to pass because it puts the kibosh on competitive and unsafe behavior like racing. There are always one or two kids that fall into this catagory. I tell them, “You can race when you’re not at Goodman.”  They soon learn that passing simply isn’t necessary because everyone rides at a different pace.

10. Um, I don’t really have a 10, I just like having a round number.

So, tell me about your adventures with kids and biking. What works for you? What doesn’t?  

Searching for Big Foot at Governor Nelson State Park

Searching for Big Foot at Governor Nelson State Park.

Some hikes are more about nature than others.
This was definately not one of those hikes.

This hike was all about Big Foot.

“I think this is big foot’s den,” said DaVonte.

“I think this is his foot print,” said Buba.

“Do you think this is where he goes to the bathroom?” questioned Ebrahim.

And so it went on a blustery hike at Governor Nelson State Park.  Continue reading