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The Nature Museum Teaches to Tread Lightly on the Earth

By Marina I. Jokic

A nonprofit founded in 1989, The Nature Museum moved to its present location in the Grafton Grange building in 1996. Undergoing a three-year renovation, the organization reopened in 1999 in a renewed condition, welcoming a throng of visitors every year. Executive director Carrie Roy King has been with the museum for several years and is committed to educating the public about the natural environment.

Established by Grafton residents Don Clark and Sue Hadden and the Museum Board of Directors, The Nature Museum showcases the region's plants, animals, and common geology.

"Hands-on exhibits, dioramas, and mounted specimens engage learners of all ages and connect visitors to the natural world in New England," King said. "In an era where more and more people are disconnected from nature, The Nature Museum recognizes the importance of making a real investment in environmental education and outdoor learning."

The museum is dedicated to engaging its audience through a diverse portfolio of programs for preschoolers to adults. Topics covered include biology, earth science, and natural history. Programming falls into three core stakeholder categories: kids, adults, and schools and libraries. Through field trips and hands-on exercises, children gain a solid foundation in environmental science. One of the museum's main goals is to bring comprehensive science and environmental education to local schools at an affordable cost.

Their discovery-learning programs foster an early love of the natural world and an eagerness to enjoy the great outdoors. Addressing science illiteracy at an early age builds an educated and informed society one child at a time. A prominent example of discovery learning is the Mighty Acorns Club, held from September to May on the third Thursday of each month. Mighty Acorns invites children to explore the natural world through interactive games, puzzles, and activities. This program is held in the museum and spurs exploration of the backyard and nearby woods, fields, and pond.

More recently, some of the museum's educational programs have grown to include school group tours, hour-long learning sessions, and long-term naturalist and docent residencies. Collaborations with teachers and administrators throughout the area have helped the museum become an authoritative learning resource. The museum also offers special programs for homeschooled students.

"Visitors can crawl through an underground bear den; dig for fossils; find out about bats, bees, and catamounts; and learn about animal adaptations by dressing up as their favorite creature," King said. "Outdoors, wander in our wildlife garden, build a fairy house and catch a glimpse of passing butterflies and our resident honeybees out collecting nectar."

A flagship activity at the museum, the Fairy House Festival delivers a memorable experience for young and old alike. Visitors relish the opportunity to discover the inherent beauty and necessity of nature. Held in late September over the course of two full days, the festival brings hundreds of visitors to a half-mile nature path sprinkled with fairy houses adorned with acorn caps and shelf fungi tables. Visitors return to the museum to create their own fairy dwellings in the gardens with crafts, face painting, and bubbles among other tools.

Aerial photos courtesy of Jeanie Wright Photography
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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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