CEDAR RAPIDS — Indian Creek Nature Center is teeming with bees, families and Eastern Iowans interested in taking a look at the new Amazing Space building.
The new 12,000-square-foot headquarters, at 5300 Otis Rd. SE, is just down the road from the renovated 1930s dairy barn where the organization operated since 1974.
The facility qualifies for the Living Building Challenge, marking its variety of sustainable features, is solar powered and creates more energy than the building uses.
The grand-opening weekend kicked off Thursday night with a farm-to-table dinner and continues with events from early morning to evening Friday through Sunday.
By noon on Friday, nearly 200 visitors had visited the center to take part in nature hikes, grab a bite from food trucks or take part in the Spider Safari, designed for preschoolers.
Karen Antons, 53, and Sarah Phipps, 39, both of Cedar Rapids, each brought the children, ages 1 to 4, from their respective day cares to the center.
It’s an educational opportunity, Phipps said.
“We like to get outside and do things with them outside of the home and in nature, learning new things instead of sitting at home every day,” she said. “It leads to conversations.
“It’s hard for kids to get out at night because it might be dangerous, and they’re living in more urban areas. Parents are busy on the weekends. This is another way for them to get the activity.”
Antons added she noticed that one of the children she cares for learns better when all his senses are engaged — such as when they’re outside touching grass, watching insects and breathing in fresh air.
“If I sit him in a classroom at home around a table, he’s not as engaged in learning,” Antons said. “But if you bring him to a classroom like this, he just comes alive. He yells out answers when they’re asking questions.
“Nature’s our favorite classroom. It’s natural play space.”
But more than learning about bugs or plants, Phipps said it’s important to teach children about nature at a young age so they grow up with an appreciation for the environment and become the next generation of land stewards.
“They’re the ones that are going to be taking care of the environment as I retire,” she said.
Free outdoor concerts take place Friday and Saturday evenings and food trucks are stationed outside the building. All the events — including nature hikes, building tours, face-painting and other child-friendly activities — are free.
At the Friday morning opening ceremony, John Myers, director of Indian Creek Nature Center, announced that the center surpassed its fundraising goal by $1 million, raising $7.6 million for the project.
“This building was designed, envisioned and put together by the community, not the nature center,” Myers said. “This facility represents more than just office space and classroom space. It’s really a commitment to getting people outdoors, connected and engaged, providing recreational opportunities.”
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Doug Kopp, senior vice president for Alliant Energy, spoke on the significance of the energy company partnering with the nature center to commit to sustainability. Alliant Energy funded the 420-panel solar energy system that powers the Amazing Space, and any energy not used at the building is transferred into the power grid.
Visitors can maneuver a solar panel at the entrance to see live data on how the angle of the panel affects energy production.