DANVILLE — For instructors Lara Darling and Jeremy Parrish, the new Kennekuk Environmental Education Center offers a variety of improvements, including larger classrooms, bigger office areas and a presentation area allowing kids to get up close to a wide range of taxidermy animals and scenes.
The ribbon-cutting for the long-sought education center is only two weeks away and Outdoor School instructors Darling and Parrish are excited about the prospects and improvements that new building holds.
Walking through the building Thursday, both admired the larger spaces and imagined the bonuses that will come as a result.
“Your imagination can go wild really: What kind of things can I do here?” Parrish said of his classroom, which is about double the size of his current classroom
“That’s the exciting thing — the possibilities are kind of endless,” Parrish added. “Whatever you can think of we can try to do here. It’s a blank canvas.”
Phase 1 of the 34,000-square-foot structure includes two classrooms, office and storage space and a kitchen. For Outdoor School, the facility replaces the Nature Center — an old restored home.
Plans for the Kennekuk Environmental Education Center have been a part of the Vermilion County Conservation District’s master plan since 1995 and an item for the district’s foundation since 2006.
The ribbon cutting is set for Sept. 15 with Outdoor School slated to begin the next day.
While Darling admits the Nature Center holds a lot of memories for her during the 14 years she’s been with the conservation district, the opportunity for a new education center is an enticing one.
“We don’t’ spend a whole lot of time in the classroom,” she said. “This is called Outdoor School and we try to spend as much time as we can outdoors.
“But on those days where you have to keep the kids in the classroom, this is going to be so much more conducive for learning, so much more productive for learning,” Darling said.