Environmental Education Center
4116 W. Plano Pkwy., Plano
Hours: Open during daylight hours daily.
Admission: Free garden admission; free for most early childhood programs.
Garden or building rental starts at $25 an hour for residents.
Explaining a butterfly’s life cycle to a child – from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis and beyond – might wind up as a tangled as a spider’s web without some kind of visual aid. So the Environmental Education Center’s Nature Explore Garden in Plano has made it easy to demonstrate a butterfly’s metamorphosis and to uncover more mysteries of the natural world for your kids.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-certified center opened in May 2012 with a twofold mission: to showcase a building constructed to the highest in green standards and to connect children with nature through the Nature Explore Garden. The garden is packed with educational stations for self-guided activities so young learners can discover everything from how to match leaves to trees to which insects can’t resist a moist compost pile.
The garden is open from sunrise to sundown every day, so take the kids anytime for a stroll through the garden or a crawl through the playground equipment to feel what it’s like for worms to burrow underground. The music station is packed with rain sticks, a wooden xylophone, tambourine and wind chimes fashioned from spoons and metal tools for an impromptu music jam.
To attract some feathered friends, sprinkle birdseed along the bird blind and peek through the eyeholes to catch a glimpse of the hungry creatures. Make your mark on the weaving wall by adding your own knots and braids of ribbons and strips of burlap. A row of stepping stumps sits low enough for a game of hopscotch, though don’t forget to count the rings on each trunk that’s been sanded smooth.
The well-organized garden has enough space to fit the family around each activity station, or you can take a seat at the picnic tables or on square hay bales while the kids run free. In open trunks they’ll find an assortment of backpacks filled with project craft kits. Pick a theme and follow the instructions on the flip cards.
Hear that whirring sound? That’s the 60-foot wind turbine harnessing the winds in order to generate roughly 30 percent of the building’s energy. A nearby solar panel sits quietly at eye level but is soaking up the rays, another example of nature’s silent miracles.