Education Buildings and Facilities
Chet Ager Building
- Exhibits include:
- Information and hands-on activities about wetlands and woodlands
- ‘Base Camp’ – an exploration area for primary school aged children
- Live animals including snakes, turtles, screech owls and a barn owl
- Large windows overlook a garden with plantings while feeders and a water element attract a wide variety of birds
- The Louise Evans Doole Herb Garden and a wild tea garden are nearby
The exhibit/office addition contains many green building features including straw-bale construction, geo-thermal heating and air conditioning, the use of recycled and low VOC materials and a green roof. It was the first building in Lincoln to be awarded LEED certification. The building is surrounded by prairie plants, including a labeled demonstration garden area.
- Exhibits include:
- Information and hands-on activities about the tallgrass prairie
- Small animals including snakes and turtles
- A children’s corner with puzzles, building materials and games
- Crafts for preschoolers
- Preschool classrooms
- Nature Center offices
- An art wall features changing shows of the work of local artists
- The Gift Shop has a wide variety of nature related items including books, puppets, notecards, field guides, toys, and products made in Nebraska.
- The Malinovskis Auditorium
The natural setting of this flexible meeting room makes it a unique and peaceful rental space overlooking a pond and prairie. Ideal for business or club meetings, events, lectures, training seminars, workshops, retreats, birthdays and anniversaries, the room provides auditorium-style seating for 80 or for 60 at tables. Tables, chairs, sound and video equipment are available at no extra charge. A kitchenette and coffee urns make it easy for you to provide refreshments. A large deck provides additional space. For reservations call 402-441-7895.
- Fees: $55/hr, three hour minimum or $350/day during regular business hours 8:30 am - 5:00 pm Mon-Sat, 12-5 pm Sun. $75/hour outside of regular hours.
The Cunningham School, Saunders County District 113 was originally located 7 miles north and 2 miles west of Valparaiso, Nebraska. It was first built in the 1800’s. It was destroyed by fire and replaced by this building in the 1930’s. The coat room and supply room were later additions. The school was retired from use in 1968. It was purchased from Adolph Klimert in 1975 by the Fair Board for use in the Heritage Village. It was moved to the Nature Center on November 1st, 2009.
During the school year, area 4th grade children have the opportunity to experience history as they spend a school day as it might have been in the late 1800’s. Standing on a hill at the edge of the Martin Prairie, the school is open to the public during special events.
“Thomas Jefferson Hudson was born in 1826 in Indiana. After several westerly moves, he rented an Otoe County farm in 1861. Two years later the Hudsons acquired a quarter section of land, through the Homestead Act, south of the village of Lancaster. On his arrival he noted that his only true neighbors were living in two dugouts on Salt Creek. Oak logs were hauled in from near Germantown (now Garland) in the fall of 1863 while milled flooring lumber came from Nebraska City with the almost unheard of luxury of wood shingles coming from McKisick’s Island east of the Missouri River northeast of Peru, Nebraska.
The cabin was noted as being the “largest and grandest house, and the only shingled roof, upon the whole site of [Lancaster] out on Salt Creek.”
At some early point the cabin was probably moved south of its original site to 2236 South 10th Street where, through the years, it was resided in and enlarged. In 1964, during a remodeling project, the “buried” cabin was discovered and purchased by Lincoln Mayor Dean Peterson who “saved it” for $5,000. The junior Chamber of Commerce set out to raise funds to reconstruct it inside a new structure to be built in Van Dorn Park, but the plan failed. The disassembled cabin was stored in a warehouse until 1974 when the Lincoln Parks Department transferred title to the Nebraska Historical Society. With the aid of funds appropriated by the legislature, the cabin was reconstructed as part of Heritage Village on the fairgrounds.”
- Jim McKee, Lincoln Journal Star article, November, 2009
On June 22, 2010, the Hudson Cabin was moved to Pioneers Park Nature Center. It is used during 4th grade Prairie Immersion hikes to give students a sense of the size of a ‘grand’ house in the early days of our city – it measures 14 x 16 feet! The cabin is open to the public during special events.
The gardens that surround the Prairie Building are designed to help visitors appreciate the beauty and diversity of prairie plants. Many are drought tolerant choices for home gardens. Labels allow identification of plants that can be seen in our prairie.
The Louise Evans Doole Herb Garden, located north of the Chet Ager Building, was established in 1972. Mrs. Doole was an editor of The Nebraska Farmer and author of several books on herbs. A complete renovation of the garden was undertaken in 2003 using funds from an endowment given by the Doole family, and a Greenspace Initiative Grant administered by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. The garden has grown from 16 herbs to a display of over 150, many with identifying labels. Staff and volunteers perform the day-to-day garden maintenance.
The Irene and George Alexander Bird Garden is located west of the Chet Ager Building and was established the spring of 2012. The garden is a bird sanctuary and demonstrative backyard wildlife habitat filled with feeders, a water feature and variety of forbes and shrubs. Visitors can view the garden through the windows of the Chet Ager Building or from the bird blind surrounding it.
The Children’s Garden is a raised bed vegetable and flower garden. Children participating in Nature Center programming plant, tend and learn about plant life cycles. Everyone is welcome to explore and enjoy the plantings.
The Preschool Butterfly Garden is planted with colorful annuals by the children in our preschool program and their families each spring
Edna's Shield's Natural Play Area
Come out and play in the dirt, create a masterpiece with sticks and pods, crawl through a log, dig in the sand, build a fort and have some fun! The area is sensory-rich and a treasure trove of experiential learning, imagination and wonder.
Research has found that frequent, unstructured play in natural environments is a strong positive influence on the developmental needs of young children. Benches are available for parents while children spend hours crafting their own activities using natural materials.
The Nature Center cares for a variety of animals. Indoor and outdoor animal exhibits provide the visitor with an up close look at many native Nebraska animals. The raptors on exhibit have all been injured and are non-releasable. Our building staff is happy to get out a snake or turtle for a closer look.
Art at the Nature Center
The Nature Center is home to several pieces of art including steel sculptures, painted murals and a revolving gallery space.
Four hand-crafted metal art panels mark the entrance to the Nature Center. The welcome sign features a bison head, and three tall corten steel structures celebrate the plants and animals of the habitats found within the center: prairie, wetlands and woodlands. They were designed by staff member Janice Wishnow and created by Jake Balcom of Mettle Design.
A steel sculpture featuring three butterflies is placed near the preschool garden. It was donated by preschool families in memory of a preschool mother, and created by Ron Swanson of Out of Hand Metal Arts.
Inside the Prairie Building, murals by Mark Marcuson depict fall and early summer prairies and an art wall features changing displays of the work of local artists.
In 2009, the Nature Center received two pieces of art designed and fabricated by Carl Weiss of Weiss Studios and Gardens, Springfield, Nebraska. A fountain, displayed seasonally, was added to the Louise Evans Doole Herb Garden, donated by the Doole Family Foundation. At the entrance to the Prairie Building, “Curly”, a bison bench greets visitors.
In 2015, Prairie Flowers, a bronze statue by George Lundeen, a native Nebraskan, was added on the west side of the auditorium.