Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Find Your Home at the Jester Park Nature Center

The Jester Park Nature Center will exist as a means to connect you, the visitor, to a sense of stewardship, ownership as well as a sense of place within the land in which you reside. Surrounded by prairie, woodland and wetland environments, the Center will encourage exploration of the various habitats representative of the Iowa landscape. Time inside the Center will inspire you to get outside by creating an integrated transition between indoors and outdoors, and to explore and recreate in the great outdoors of Iowa in a safe and responsible manner. Cultivating appreciation of Iowa's diverse natural habitats is to create an understanding of where we are in the grand scheme of things as interconnected parts of a great web of biodiversity. We are not apart from nature but rather a part of it.

Both the layout and site of the Jester Park Nature Center have been specifically chosen to maximize the experience for the visitor. As you enter the building, explore the hands-on interactive exhibits and displays that immerse the participant in the diverse habitats spread across Iowa. Layers of embedded discovery and unexpected surprises await the eager student of the natural world, no matter the age. The goal of the Center is to bring many connected aspects of the outdoors inside one location where these concepts are readily available and accessible.

Visitors will be able to connect patterns and make associations which leads to a deeper level of learning once interest and curiosity has been piqued. The Center will provide a launching point into three vital habitats spread across Iowa. Once a general understanding of the means by which prairie, woodland and aquatic ecosystems are interconnected, visitors can then step right outside the building to experience these natural areas and put their newfound knowledge into practice through exploration. Inspired and educated by their experiences within the exhibits and classrooms, visitors can go outside and partake in their own Jester Park adventure.

"Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection." -- Freeman Tilden

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Education, the Environment, and the Jester Park Nature Center

Education represents a vital part of the foundation of Polk County Conservation and our mission here in central Iowa. For more than 35 years, Polk County Conservation environmental educators have been providing quality environmental education programming to people of all ages in the Greater Des Moines area. Recognized as one the fasted growing urban populations in the Midwest, there is an increased need and public demand for environmental education programming in our dynamic community.

More than 276,000 individuals have participated in one of PCC's environmental education programs in the past eight years. When the Jester Park Nature Center opens its doors, programming numbers are expected to double. The Center will benefit visitors in a variety of ways by:

...year-round environmental education opportunities 

...with interpretive exhibits on the importance of biodiversity, water quality, and conservation of natural resources

...through enhanced STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, and  Math) programming

...community health through increased outdoor skills programming and increased time in nature

...rental equipment such as cross country skis, snowshoes, insect nets and fishing poles

...a destination site for tourists to engage in outdoor discover


Partnering with local schools will be a crucial component as relevance of conservation and sustainability to STEM studies will be highlighted at the Jester Park Nature Center. An important part of these partnerships includes immersing students into the natural environment through field trips.

During the 2014-2015 school year, PCC naturalists led a total of 125 field trips, involving 702 programs and 8,959 students. Teachers are provided tangible, hands-on experience outside of the confines of a classroom through these trips. This, in turn, enhances topics covered in the classroom by actively engaging students in exploration of the arena in which natural processes are played out. Learning objectives are met while having fun in the great outdoors - a true win-win scenario for both the student and teacher as well as the naturalists here at Polk County Conservation.

The Center will also provide year-round indoor classrooms that will facilitate learning about the natural world even in inclement weather. Classrooms and common areas will create a welcoming environment for our naturalists to capture the minds, hearts and imagination of visitors of all ages.

Designed with our educational and environmental missions in mind, the Jester Park Nature Center will fill a need felt throughout the state of Iowa. It will serve as a portal to outdoors and a gateway for learning for students from all walks and stages of life. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Health, Wellness and Quality of Life Outdoors at the Jester Park Nature Center

Beep, beep, beep, beep.
It's 6:00 a.m. on a Monday. 
Time to start the week. 

Whether you're a student rushing to squeeze in an extra hour of studying before class after a late night in the library; a parent rushing to get children awake, dressed and excited for the school day; or a vital cog in the work machine that is the corporate and small business world, you are no stranger to the daily stresses and obligations of this modern world.

Now, more than ever, the restorative powers of nature are not ones to overlook. The average American lifestyle does not allow much for the natural and necessary slowdown crucial to optimal health and wellness. Immersion in the natural world provides a passive process by which simply being present provides immense benefits to one's overall well-being. The Jester Park Nature Center will provide a haven for respite from this fast-paced world in which we reside.

The nature center will serve as an outdoor recreation hub where both education and access intersect resulting in a myriad of available activities that include hiking, birding, canoeing, geocaching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, camping and more. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorsperson or simply have an interest in getting more active outdoors, think of the Jester Park Nature Center as the launchpad into all your adventures in the natural world.

This center will also embrace the opportunity to partner with local health care agencies and initiatives to improve our state's overall heath and well-being. Polk County Conservation and UnityPoint Health - Des Moines have been partnering for years to encourage people to Do More Outdoors.

The physical and mental health benefits people derive from being outdoors is significant. Educating the public about outdoor health and recreation will be enhanced greatly because of the Jester Park Nature Center.  -  Joseph F. Corfits, Jr., CFO, UnityPoint Health.

It is vital to provide a gathering a place - a starting point if you will - for residents and visitors to begin their outdoor adventures and path to health. Accessibility is the key component in this recipe for wellness and the Jester Park Nature Center will fill that current gap in Polk County. Access to the tools and knowledge, as well as the inspiration to get outside and into nature, is what the Jester Park Nature Center will bring to central Iowa.