By Jason Sauter
Temperatures in Cache Valley are beginning to warm up and so are the outdoor activities in Logan Canyon. One place in Logan Canyon that provides an array of activities and education for children and the community is the Stokes Nature Center. From nature walks in the sun to learning more about Cache Valley's animals, it can all be found in and around the Stokes Nature Center.
Located one mile into Logan Canyon in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the Stokes Nature Center is a private, non-profit organization that offers a variety of different programs targeted toward the community and students. Their mission statement according to the Stokes Nature Center Web site is "providing a place where students of all ages can explore and learn about the natural environment and develop a sense of stewardship for the natural systems that sustain us."
The nature center's goal is to focus on the community.
"There is something for everyone at the Stokes Nature Center. We want to be a place that everyone in Cache Valley can feel a sense of pride for and ownership of. We wouldn't be here without the support of this community," said Janna Custer, executive director of the center.
Inside the nature center is a museum where there are live animals, fossils and different interactive exhibits. "This center can be a quiet respite for local trail walkers, an interactive experience for those that want to not only see but touch and learn about nature," said Custer.
Visitor Janet Faulk, a Utah State University student, said, "I was really impressed with all the things there was to learn about, it has a very inviting feel to it, so you want to explore everything."
The center provides a large den with several couches where visitors can read and learn more about their favorite animal. "I love sitting and reading all their fun books. It's so relaxing that you can just lose track of time," said Faulk.
In addition to the animals and the library, there is a state-of-the-art weather station that provides up-to-the-minute weather data on precipitation, temperature, barometric pressure, and solar radiation.
Custer said the weather station was made possible through a donation from Campbell Scientific in Cache Valley, "one of the many local companies that supports the Stokes Nature Center."
It is through community support and donations that the center is able to provide an environmental education to students. Over 2,000 children each year benefit from the center.
"The Stokes Nature Center provides a safe environment for children to learn about nature through school programs (and) community programs," said Custer.
The center offers several programs for elementary school children, including an on-site program that teaches students about the weather and how to predict it using various weather instruments. Another program is the "Signs of the Seasons," where students observe the weather and how it affects plants, animals, and people. The center provides field trips for students to learn about soil and how it relates to the different components in the growth of plants.
The organization reaches out to the local schools by teaching in-class presentations on geology and plants. During the summer the nature center offers day camps for children from pre-kindergarten to seventh grade. These camps provide children the opportunity to learn about plants, animals and their environment. Also provided are art and nature camps where children can cultivate their artistic abilities in a nature setting.
"We also have a fun children's program called 'Tales and Trails' for ages 4-7, this popular program involves one of our naturalists reading a nature story followed by related crafts and activities. It's always a hit," said Custer.
Field trips, day camps and visits to the nature center are provided at a minimal cost and discounts apply to members of the Nature Center. To be a member or for more information call (435)-755-3239 or visit the Stokes Nature Center, located at 2696 E. Highway 89 in Logan.
The center plans to expand its programs and teach more people about the environment around Logan. The staff is working with the Logan City School District in developing a program on nature education and recreation for after school programs.
Rachelle Ernest, a teacher at the after school program at Ellis Elementary said, "the after-school programs are there to enhance the children's lives. The Stokes Nature Center would be a perfect place to give the students a hands-on experience that couldn't be gained anywhere else."
"The future holds many opportunities for us. We are in the process of collaborating with Utah State University and the Logan Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service in developing a residential learning facility in Logan Canyon," said Custer.
"Cache Valley is blessed with such incredible access to natural resources, and it's so important that we take care of these resources for generations to come," said Custer.