Beyond Brick & Mortar: Building the Future of Education with Open Walls & Open Minds

In 2023, we applied for – and received – a grant from the IDNR to construct an indoor-outdoor classroom in the lower level of the Rock Springs Nature Center. This project will focus on increasing our programming space at the Nature Center by constructing additional indoor and outdoor learning facilities and structures. With this addition, we’ll be able to provide a more accessible and inclusive environment, and cultivate opportunities for more participants to learn about natural resources that will help foster stewardship and interest in conservation in our young learners and the general public.

We here at the Macon County Conservation District are constantly making updates to our facilities and programs to keep up with trends that accommodate the needs of our community. The Nature Center was originally built in 1989 and is now over 30 years old. Over the years, the Nature Center has hosted thousands of programs and events, and has gone through many changes to meet the needs of our staff and visitors. The proposed plan for this project is to construct an indoor-outdoor learning center that will provide a seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, which will immerse its users and participants in an outdoor environment that will encourage conservation education.

Beyond Brick and Mortar

The proposed plan is to start the architectural and engineering for the project this winter and have it completed and ready to bid in early spring. The bidding process is scheduled to be completed by late spring of 2025 and contractors on board by the first part of spring. The construction phase of the project is estimated to take 9-12 months, with final closeout of the project happening in late spring or early summer of 2025. We’re very excited to bring this to the Macon County area, as not many other facilities in this part of Illinois have something of this scale. With this new classroom, we’ll be able to accommodate larger class sizes and multiple classes for field trips and programs. It’s our hope that by having this new space, we’ll be able to bring even more children to our programs and start what will hopefully be a life-long love of nature. It would be great to see area youngsters use this facility, continue their love of nature through education in the field of natural resources, and maybe even return to the District as future conservationists to work in the place where it all started.

by Jerry Culp and Ashton Nunn

Published On: February 15, 2024