Imagine being able to take a break from the stress and frenzy of exams, projects and the craziness of figuring out summer plans, and go to a place where you can just sit and be in nature. A place where you can hear frogs peeping in the surrounding forest and look around you to see mallard ducks and Canadian Geese. Maybe if you are luck you could catch a glimpse of a wild beaver splashing into the water below. This hidden gem of opportunity exists right outside of Westminster College’s main campus! I spent the afternoon with Professor of environmental science, Dr. Patrick Krantz. Professor Krantz took me to the place where he teaches the majority of his classes here at Westminster. This place is not a lecture hall, but rather the Nature Center. The Nature center is comprised of a lot of cool resources available to Westminster students, is a valuable resource for classes from anthropology to biology and is a wonderful asset to the community. There will also be efforts in the near future to make it more easily accessible to the Westminster College Community and more.
The nature center is made up of three main parts. These three parts are the field station, the lake and the college woods. The field station is housed in the oldest building on the Campus of Westminster College. The Bank Barn is a restored barn. The barn was originally built in 1877, just a couple of decades after the college itself was founded. When I went inside it did resemble a normal classroom, or lab with tables with stools, white boards on the walls and equipment used in the classes held within the building. Professor Krantz teaches a lot of his classes in this building and in the outdoor lab. I sat down with him in the barn, right where these classes are held. Krantz told me, ” The Nature Center serves as our home base for lab”. Professor Krantz prefers to teach in the Nature Center, He says that he is sure that somewhere on campus there is a lecture hall or lab reserved for his classes but having class in the Nature Center is an opportunity too good to pass up.
Students do not always know about the resources available at the Field station. Professor Krantz joked that he has had students in the past mistakenly end up shooting hoops at the field house when he had told them to meet him at the field station. Making more students and community members aware of the resources available is one of Professor Krantz’ goals.
Many classes across all disciplines have utilized the facilities at the nature Center and the Field Station. Professors Duerr and Bradley Weaver teach their “Tweet Speak” class where they utilize the Bird Blind at the Field Station. Professor Duerr and Professor Krantz came up with the idea to have the Bird Blind constructed to improve the experience for students in the “Tweet Speak” class. In the Tweet Speak class students learn about biology and birding as well as blogging by sharing their experiences on WordPress by designing and managing their own blog. The students’ blogs on WordPress also showcase photography skills they learn from Professor Weaver through taking the course.
The facilities are also utilized by classes that you would not imagine right away. Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Summer Zickfoose. A kiln was constructed at the Nature Center for her students to use when they studied early American pottery. Professor Cox utilizes the nature Center as well to grow plats she uses to create natural dyes used in her art classes. There have also been yoga classes taught amongst nature on the bird blind.
The Nature Center is a resource that is open to all Westminster College students as well as the publice from surrounding communities to enjoy! Dr. Krantz wants it to become more accessible in the future, especially the Bird Blind which is only accessible from a 4-wheel drive tractor due to rain most of the time. His goal is for there to be a boardwalk that allows people to walk right up to the bird blind from their cars and just enjoy being in nature.