The Nature Explore Classroom at
Indian Creek Nature Center
Indian Creek Nature Center’s beautiful Hazelnut Hideaway flows among the surrounding landscape, strategically located on the tree line between the Nature Center wetlands and Bena Brook.
This is probably the strongest point of the classroom, which provides natural ambiance and beauty. Frogs, turtles and waterfowl make the wetland their home and can be enjoyed from a view at any point in the classroom. Existing trees and branches were deliberately incorporated into the overall design of the classroom. Shrubs, including redbuds and hazelnuts, create a multilayer canopy of changing colors throughout the year. By incorporating nature and taking advantage of the surrounding landscape, each visit provides a different experience.
Guests use the words “peaceful”, “rugged”, “natural” and “fun” to describe their time in Hideaway Hideaway, which is also due to the natural materials by which it was constructed. Wood and stone are the primary materials in the classroom, along with a few metal items, like copper wind spinners hung in trees and a pump used in the Let It Flow area.
Each element of Hazelnut Hideaway was created to fit in the overall space, reflect a component of nature, and tell its own story. This includes the stump spiral and live edge balance beam in Adventurescape, the performance stage made of tree cookies, and materials for block and structure building. In the Natural Art area, the loom incorporates the weaving of natural grasses that are harvested on site, and the Mud Kitchen table uses earth and wood for creative play. Landforms in the shape of a snake and a turtle were created using earth and were seeded for greenscaping. These landforms and the gathering area – a tipi – give an appropriate nod to the Native American heritage of the area. All of the trees and shrubs planted in the area are edible and provide shade. Even adults have found the classroom to be a place for growth and exploration. Yoga classes are held in various places in the classroom, and guided meditations often take place in the tipi.
By engaging with and seeking feedback from children, staff, volunteers, and artists, each part of Hazelnut Hideaway is especially unique. A local artist created a willow structure and an initial tipi structure with all materials gathered on-site. These provide quiet nooks for children to use their imaginations. The Hazelnut Hideaway elements and the name itself were crowd-sourced from Nature Center members. This, as well as the remarkable amount of work done by volunteers also makes our classroom unique. Even those elements from the classroom that needed to be outsourced for safety were completed by those who gave an in-kind donation of their time and skills. Additional elements, including a weather station and structure building, were added based on visitor requests.
Hazelnut Hideaway will continually change based on feedback, the seasons, and the needs of the community. Therefore, it will be a pleasantly evolving project that fulfills our mission to create Champions of Nature.