BRISTOL - The Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut bring a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of the environment through their two locations in Bristol and educational programs throughout the state.
“My favorite part is helping people get a better appreciation and understanding of nature and getting people outside to enjoy what the natural world has to offer,” Executive Director Scott Heath said.
Last year the organization provided educational programs to over 22,000 children and families in over 70 Connecticut communities, according to elcct.com.
This outreach shows the group’s passion to achieve its mission to “Inspire the appreciation and enjoyment of nature, through education and conservation, fostering a healthy environment and an improved quality of life.”
“In this day and age people aren’t getting outside hardly at all and with the resources that we have to offer we are acting as a catalyst to reacquaint people and get them outside, particularly kids who are spending a lot of time inside with electronics and that sort of thing and we are trying to create these experiences to get them outside,” Heath said.
At Barnes Nature Center, 175 Shrub Road, guests can visit exhibits, enjoy daily crafts and more. There are a variety of hands-on experiences all year round.
The Indian Rock Nature Preserve, 501 Wolcott Road, hosts a majority of the school programs and pays tribute to the land’s history as a shelter for the Tunxis Indians and early colonial settlers. The preserve also runs a summer camp for children every year.
The ELCCT educational programs are also brought into schools throughout the state.
The organizations began in 1969 as a charitable organization for land preservation and environmental education on 40 acres of land in Bristol. It wasn’t known as the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut until it changed its name in 2002 to mark its involvement across the whole state. In 2008, more land was added to the Barnes Nature Center and in 2010, Indian Rock Nature Preserve was opened.
Today, ELCCT protects over 730 acres as a land trust in Bristol and Burglinton.
Beyond educational programs, the Barnes Nature Center is available for hosting meetings and parties. They have an upcoming lecture series, a program on climate change and a car show on Oct. 14. For Halloween there will be a program called “Trailside Tales” about local legends including the Leather Man and the Green Lady.
The center is always looking for volunteers in all areas of its operation, said Heath.
The Barnes Memorial Nature Center is open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The nature trails are open from dawn to dusk.
For more information, visit elcct.com or call 860-583-1234.