Being outside and in nature can be a surefire way to de-stress after a hard day at work.
“Being in this space allows you to connect with a different part of yourself,” said Kelli Kennon-Lane, director of education at the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids. “When people come to attend a program, they often say that even the walk to the building from the parking lot is relaxing.”
The flower-filled walk, where you’re likely to encounter butterflies and wildlife, is one of the many draws for the 81,000 visitors who stop by the nature center every year. Some visitors come to attend programs and events, but the majority stop by for an hour or two to relieve stress from work or daily life. Summer is a busy season with events like Monarch Fest, Concerts at the Creek and an outdoor yoga series. Some of the programs are directly related to the mission of the nature center, like Monarch Fest, which provides learning opportunities about pollinating insects.
Other events, like the concert series, simply get people through the door. “If we can connect people to nature while they’re enjoying face painting or food from a food truck, that’s mission accomplished,” said Kennon-Lane.
Indian Creek Nature Center’s Amazing Space building, which opened in 2016, is also a draw for visitors. With a glass room for bird watching, an interactive watershed table and more, Kennon-Lane said anyone can drop in to explore the outdoors or learn about sustainability.
This fall, the building is set to become the first in Iowa to complete the “Living Building Challenge,” which is a comprehensive certification process set forth by the International Living Future Institute.
The solar panels at the nature center, which produce more than 100 percent of the energy the building needs, are one of the ways the building will achieve this status.
“It’s a step higher than LEED Platinum,” Kennon-Lane said.
The nature center hopes to continue to attract new visitors by staying nimble. Instead of having a set schedule of programs every year, Kennon-Lane asks for input from the community about what types of classes and programs they’d like to attend and then creates events to match.
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Recently, Kennon-Lane taught a class about keeping backyard chickens after visitors expressed interest in the topic. Wellness-related classes, like how to make kombucha, often attract the highest number of visitors.
“We respond to the community and what they’re looking for, and we get lots of ideas from our volunteers and donors,” Kennon-Lane said.
With a huge variety of programs to choose from and activities available daily, visitors have plenty of opportunities to de-stress by connecting to nature. Kennon-Lane said people can incorporate the feeling they get when they’re at the nature center in the rest of their day.
“When you have the ability to slow down and pay attention to the insects you’re hearing or the birds you’re seeing, you can apply that in other contexts of your life.”
Upcoming summer events at the Indian Creek Nature Center include Women in Wine: Rock Star Winemakers from the Pacific Northwest, Meet Vesta the Fox, and Concerts at the Creek. Go to indiancreeknaturecenter.org to learn more.