US Fish and Wildlife Service
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually
National Wildlife Refuge

The Nature Explore Classroom at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge complements both our formal educational programming and the non-formal educational visitor opportunities. Instead of being pushed around the trails in strollers, or following an adult leader, in the Nature Explore Area, children have meaningful and purposeful hands-on experiences with nature. They can use all their senses to experience nature, while building important observational skills that are the foundation of scientific inquiry. Children can touch, smell and see the natural world, keeping alive a sense of wonder that will bring lifetime benefits. Children gain confidence and experience that will enable them to further explore, be curious about and want to spend time in the natural world around them.

The Nature Explore Classroom is located in a historic orchard that is over 110 years old. This not only provides shade, but also draws wildlife to the apples and pears still growing there. Regional, natural materials are used throughout the site with many items, such as stepping blocks and balance beams, coming from reclaimed wood. The Washington Conservation Corps crew saved chunks of a downed cottonwood tree and hollowed them out for crawl through logs.

Aesthetically pleasing willow fencing was used on sides of the classroom that are visible to the public. Over the years those areas have grown up with native shrubs and are creating a more natural fence on the roadside of the Classroom. The Nature Art Area incorporates a two-colored, concrete swirled floor with natural items pressed onto the surface. This detail, as in all areas of the outdoor classroom, has been developed as a beautiful reflection of nature. A testament to the healing power of nature occurred during a very busy public festival in September. Families were witnessed taking a break from the crowds, noise and excitement of the festival in the Nature Explore Area. Even with a big festival taking place only a few hundred yards away, this Nature Explore Classroom allows children and their families to unwind and recharge.

This year that festival was virtual and our Nature Explore Area closed. However, maintenance has continued and we will hopefully be welcoming families to explore again very soon.