The Nature Explore Classroom at

Natural Beginnings
Early Learning Program
Kendall County Forest Preserve District

The Nature Exploration Station Certified Nature Explore Classroom at Hoover Forest Preserve is part of the Natural Beginnings Early Learning Program provided by the Kendall County Forest Preserve District.

A few years ago, Lead Teacher Megan Gessler attended a course offered by the Chicago Zoological Society that featured ideas on how to create nature play spaces. This was just the inspiration needed to spark the desire to create a similar space at the Hoover Forest Preserve.

With a green light from the administration, and lots of excitement, funding was needed to begin. It just so happened that when Megan took her children to see their pediatrician, Dr. Natalie, she overheard her speaking with her receptionist about the need for a children’s garden to inspire the local children to get back to nature. Megan mentioned that she had the perfect space if they would like to help find a way to help fund it. A few months later, Stephanie the receptionist, passed away unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart issue. Dr. Natalie called Megan to let her know that they would like to create the space in Stephanie’s honor. The children’s garden is named Stephanie’s Garden.

Natalie Drummond, Stephanie’s sister-in-law Jessica Harvey, Megan Gessler, Laura McCoy, Lisa Booker and Ashley Kelly formed an initiative and collected funds, materials and manpower to fulfill the dream. The administration at the Kendall County Forest Preserve District was equally passionate about providing a space where children can play in the preserve that is off the sanctioned trails.

This is a space where a child can be encouraged to engage every sense while playing freely with nature; a place where a child is encouraged to touch, pick up, smell, dig, get dirty, experience, climb on, and most of all, partake in unstructured play.

This was definitely a community effort with local landscapers, plumbers, volunteer groups, scout troops and the children throughout Kendall County having participated in the creation of the Nature Exploration Station. All had plans and ideas and made it happen.


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11285 W. Fox Road
Yorkville, IL 60560


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