Nature center mission: Irvine is an environmental education organization. Our mission is to educate and inspire current and future generations to explore, respect and protect nature.
My visit to Irvine Nature Center was my first official Weekly Museum Visit with a child in my party. I visited with my friend Diana and her one-year-old son Gabriel, and I had the delight of watching him interact with both the exhibits and the outdoors.
In the Exhibit Hall, Gabe especially enjoyed the Woods at Night installation: a dark room where animal mounts light up one by one as an audio component plays the animal’s sounds as well as a narration about the animal. Gabe seemed most entranced by the fox in this display.
We showed Gabe the live animals on display in the exhibit space, which include snakes, turtles, fish, frogs, and a bird. The best moment came when Gabe showed us something neither of us adults had noticed: the animal tracks all over the floor.
The Exhibit Hall also contains information about what Irvine has implemented to help the environment (green roof, recycled building materials, native plants), a list of what visitors can do (recycle, compost, buy sustainable products), and a demonstration showing how wetlands protect the Chesapeake.
After exploring the indoor space, we went outside and took a nature walk. The trail was manageable, though not ideal, for the stroller. There were interesting things along the loop we took: owl habitats, a gazebo with a great view of a meadow below, a wooden shelter for sitting and nature-observing. Gabe was most interested in exploring the meadow area and playing with sticks. I really liked taking photos of Diana and Gabe here, and watching Gabe be enthralled by something as simple and natural as a stick on the ground.
There were parts of the nature center that we did not explore: an outdoor classroom available to members only, and the extensive trails beyond the little loop that we walked. In addition to the features available for visitors, there is also a Nature Preschool at Irvine.
Each member of our party found something particularly resonant at the nature center. I was a professional hobbyist, exploring my professional field of museums and my hobby of photography. Diana, who described herself in her guest blog post as wanting “to live a frugal and environmentally-friendly life,” found a free family activity at a site that promotes green living. And Gabe, for whom the world is new and exciting, got to see animals, pick up sticks, and practice walking on natural terrain.
November’s blog theme is Museums Versus the Problems of the World.