Fenner Nature Center acquires second site, starts preschool remodel

A former pro shop is under renovation to serve as the new Fenner Nature Preschool’s indoor space.
Mockup of the planned Fenner Nature Preschool.
Mockup of the planned Fenner Nature Preschool.(Fenner Nature Center)
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 7:23 AM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Fenner Conservancy announced the nonprofit is expanding to include the 53-acre Sycamore Creek Driving Range. Thanks to a $47,000 grant from the Dart Foundation, the site’s former pro shop is under renovation to serve as the new Fenner Nature Preschool’s indoor space. The space will cater to early learners ages three to five with a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:10.

“There is a definite need for high-quality preschool programs in the Mid-Michigan area, and this classroom is designed to maximize educational opportunities for these early learners while exposing them to nature and the great outdoors,” said Emily L. Matthews, Dart Foundation Executive Director.

The program aims to make use of child-directed learning in both indoor and outdoor settings, with a provocation-based curriculum inspired by Reggio Emilia.

“The Fenner Nature Preschool’s guiding philosophy is that children learn best in an environment that fosters creativity, independence, and a sense of connection to the natural world,” Roxberry said. “Child-led learning and the Reggio Emilia approach allow children to develop a sense of empowered responsibility for their education and their environment, building curiosity, confidence, and connection to nature through exploration.

The newly named Dart Foundation Discovery Classroom will serve as the primary indoor educational space. The grounds closest to the building will function as the outdoor learning environment. However, the long-term usage of the remaining acreage is still under discussion with the nonprofit.

“Fenner Conservancy’s mission is to connect people to nature in the heart of Lansing through conservation, education, and stewardship. Sycamore Creek opens up new avenues to provide points of access, education, and connection to the public we serve,” executive director Liz Roxberry said at the nonprofit’s annual meeting Friday. “One of those new avenues is the Fenner Nature Preschool, which provides a unique opportunity to begin forming those connections early in our students’ lives.”

View more images from Fenner Nature Center, including blueprints and a look at the newly-acquired space in the gallery below.

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