BRISTOL - The Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut connects the public with nature.
“Everything we do is to try to get people to understand the importance of a healthy environment and to spend time outdoors to enjoy what nature has to offer,” said Executive Director Scott Heth. “We believe there is a growing disconnect between people, in particular with young people, and nature.”
“We try to fill that void and create those experiences,” said Heth, explaining that disconnect stems from electronics and being overscheduled and over committed.
Filling that void is part of the learning centers’ mission to inspire appreciation and enjoyment of nature through education and conservations, fostering a healthy environment and improved quality of life, Heth said.
To achieve that mission, the learning centers feature about 25 different species of animals, he explained.
They also work as a land conservation organization to protect about 730 acres of sanctuary land in Bristol, Southington and Burlington, he added. The land is managed for biological diversity and when appropriate, for certain species that are on the state’s endangered species list, he said.
The learning centers rely largely on volunteers to take care of all the animals and land. Over the past three years, Heth said the number of volunteers has tripled, and there are now about 200.
“All activities wouldn’t be possible without the community’s support,” Heth said. “I’m heartfelt that so many people are supportive of our goals and realize what our mission is.”
The learning centers commonly host students from a variety of schools, and on average, they hosts about 20,000 students a year from Central Connecticut, according to Heth. They also have a popular Indian Rock Summer Camp that hosts up to 125 kids a week, he said.
“Our main focus is kids. Our summer camp is a great time to emerge kids into the outdoors,” Heth said, adding that in the next few years the learning centers hope to add more adult programs.
The learning centers consist of multiple facilities, Heth explained. The Indian Rock Nature Preserve, 501 Wolcott Road, is where most school programs and events are held and is not open to the general public, and The Harry C. Barnes Nature Center, 175 Shrub Road, is a community nature center open to the public.
The learning centers aspire to hire a full-time educational director to explore programming and meet the demand for services, Heth added.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at 860-801-5088 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org