Springdale nature center wins national award

Springdale nature center wins national award

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The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center in Springdale was honored by the National Association of Interpretation with a second-place national showing at the organization’s 2021 professional awards ceremony in December.

The nature center, which opened in December 2020, showcases the beauty of native habitat and wildlife, such as the northern bobwhite, in a variety of digital and traditional displays. In addition to fantastic video intermingled with traditional educational kiosks, interactive exhibits featuring live animals, the interior architecture of the center guides visitors through a learning experience with halls transformed into caves and a learning center wrapped in 6-foot-tall “blades of grass” to offer a different sort of bird’s-eye view, that of a baby quail or turkey learning to hide from predators in the proper habitat.

That mix of overt and subtle educational elements and blending of technologies throughout the center earned the award for the exhibit designers and nature center.

The Ozark Highlands Nature Center is the ninth nature center developed by Game and Fish with the help of the Amendment 75 conservation sales tax. Private donors organized through the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation also played a large role in funding this latest nature center.

Schelly Corry, Game and Fish facility director for the center, said these now “award-winning” educational displays are only a portion of what visitors can enjoy at the center.

“We’ve had a lot of people come visit us over the winter break from school to give their kids a chance to see something other than the four walls of their house,” Corry said. “There’s so much to do inside and out that you can enjoy.”

Visitors can participate in a variety of activities, including indoor BB-gun shooting and target archery in the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Marksmanship Center from 2-4 p.m. each Saturday. They can take a self-guided tour along the center’s nature trails, which connect to the Razorback Greenway.

“The outdoor 3D archery range has become extremely popular, and you can go shoot there even when the center is closed,” Corry said.

Three indoor classrooms and two outdoor pavilions are available to host school groups and other events.

“We also have some scheduled classes coming up that people may be interested in,” Corry said. “We have a Dutch oven cooking class coming in the next week or so, and a special class for teachers who want to get some educational credits and bring Project Wild back to their students. In February, we’ll be hosting an outdoor photography class. Just visit the center’s events page to learn more.”

All AGFC nature centers are free and open to the public 8:30 a.m-4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit www.ozarkhighlandsnaturecenter.com for more information.

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