The Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center (CNC) began as a dream of Tom and Edna Carpenter, who set aside 325 acres for future generation enjoyment of the natural world. This soon grew to 425 acres, including 50 miles of trails. The Minnesota location is open 8-4:30 daily, and admission is free.
The Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center (CNC) began as a dream of Tom and Edna Carpenter, who set aside 325 acres for future generation enjoyment of the natural world. This soon grew to 425 acres, including 50 miles of trails. The Minnesota location is open 8-4:30 daily, and admission is free.

Inspired, Al and Laurie Hein and Dan Greenwald set aside 300 acres in Wisconsin, including 10 miles of trails, now open sunrise to sunset. The Wisconsin location continues to nourish its dream of becoming more accessible, including a warm bulding and flush toilets.

The CNC reaches 35,000 people a year, with 7,000-10,000 student visits and 20,000 people attending public events.

"The Nature Center is a different kind of classroom, according to Jennifer Vieth, Executive Director, who visited our club on Nov. 20. "We are out in the muck, in all seasons. We help students of all ages embrace nature throughout the year and experience nature as it changes."

More than 2,000 people attended the Center's raptor release, which celebrates injured birds' rehabilitation and re-release to the wild.

And the Nature Center's impacts are felt around the world. A Junco songbird was recovered in Alaska, and most of the population of golden winged warbler stops at CNC every year on her migration every year

The CNC was part of the Smithsonian Institue's migratory Bird Center,
Warner Nature Center and Nat. Park services study, and birds that frequent the CNC have  spread throughout the Americas.

Jenn said that the CNC is even more important today, with children spending five to seven hours a day on computer screens, with the accompanying health detriments like vision stress, etc.

"Children need nature - it helps their learning, and they are our future leaders," she said.

Whether observing the eagle's nest from the observation deck, or being able to see a  black and white warbler up close, the creatures of the CNC capture the imagination.

"When kids can look into it's eye and know it will migrate hundreds of miles, it really means something to them," said Jenn. "Most important, the CNC programs bring together inner city students and kids from smaller towns and schools, to learn and connect with each other."

"To hear a student say, 'I've never seen so many trees, except on TV,' makes us realize how providing those opportunities and opening those doors is so important," said Jenn.

Sparking that connection is the mission of the CNC. Through its core programs, it epitomizes active outdoor learning: through sight, smell, touch and adventure. Some of the staffers have been there for decades. The kids change each year, but the basics stay the same. Instructors stress keeping it fun while addressing state science standard and providing a time for discovery, inspiring awe and learning not to fear.

"It can be as simple as learning that snakes are not gonna jump across the table and attack you," said Jenn.

Finding tranquility among the trails is a beneficial side effect of a visit to the CNC. And it's scientifically proven that takning a hike in nature increases your creativity.

"If you're having trouble solving a problem, take a hike," advises Jenn.

Check out the CNC website to find out about upcoming events.
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