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
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.