The Nature Center Strategic Plan
INTRODUCTION - THE 2020 VISION
The National Audubon Society (NAS) is one of America's oldest
and most respected conservation organizations with a history
of achievement in bird conservation and nature education.
The mission of NAS is "to conserve and restore natural ecosystems,
focusing on birds and other wildlife for the benefit of
humanity and the earth's biological diversity."
Audubon recognizes that the future of conservation depends on our ability to understand, appreciate and enjoy the natural world around us, no matter where we live. Therefore, it is the vision of the National Audubon Society to plan for, organize, and develop a dynamic network of nature centers all across America.
At Audubon Centers, children and young adults learn about
nature in nature and as a consequence improve their scholastic
aptitude. At Audubon Centers, families learn the lessons
of natural world stewardship and people come together to
share conservation values. According to Audubon President
John Flicker, at Audubon Centers, "an environmental ethic
is nurtured one person at a time".
Audubon Centers will span all 50 states. They will touch the lives of one of every four children and connect people to the natural environment where they live. This is not only a vision of Audubon's future, but also a plan which we have committed ourselves to accomplishing by the year 2020 - our Vision 2020.
Imagine how your community, the state of Ohio, indeed the nation will be changed for the better!
back to top
Audubon Ohio, the Ohio field effort of the National Audubon Society, has developed this strategic plan to attain the 2020 vision in the Buckeye State. A Task Force of 20 people, who met from March through October 2000, created "The Strategic Plan for Audubon Centers in Ohio". (A list of Task Force members is found at the end of the plan.)
The Task Force was charged with constructing a plan for how a system of Audubon Centers, established in cooperation with others, will:
a) provide nature education for one in four pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade children in Ohio and
b) be located in all areas of the state - urban, rural and suburban - that are currently underserved with education about nature in nature.
In this context, underserved refers to those audiences for whom a nature center is currently not readily accessible and/or who have a history of low participation in programs offered at nature centers.
In developing this strategic plan, the Task Force recognizes the rich history of environmental education in Ohio. The Task Force proposes a future in environmental education for Audubon that uses this history as a platform from which to expand the scope and reach of environmental education across the state.
Official environmental education in Ohio began as far back as the 1930s when the predecessor of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) first began instructing the public about wildlife and soil stewardship. Also of note, the Cleveland Metroparks began nature education programming in 1931 with the construction and opening of its first of three nature centers built in the 1930's.
The ODNR continues to educate the public about conservation through its many divisions such as the divisions of Soil and Water Conservation, Wildlife, Parks and Recreation, and others. In addition to ODNR, numerous other state and local public agencies and organizations have expanded their educational efforts to meet the growing need and interest of Ohioans to be connected to the natural world around them.
One such organization of note is the Environmental Education Council of Ohio (EECO). Founded as the Ohio Conservation and Outdoor Education Association in the early 1970s, EECO has become a nexus for formal and informal environmental educators from across the state. The strength and vitality of EECO has been a major contributor to a thriving environmental education (EE) community in Ohio.
A unique institution that has fostered the expansion of environmental education is the Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF). In 1990, the Ohio General Assembly established the OEEF as a unit of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to provide funding from air and water pollution fines for worthy environmental educational programs to school aged children, the public and the regulated community.
In 1997, EECO and OEEF jointly produced a directory, "Ohio Environmental Education Sites and Resources". With 216 organizations listed as providers of environmental education, this publication reveals the many forms in which environmental education is taking place across the state.
back to top
NEED FOR EXPANDING EDUCATION THROUGH NATURE CENTERS
With so many outlets in Ohio for environmental education for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade students and the public, what then is the role of Audubon centers? Current conditions clearly point to the need for an expanded system of nature centers in Ohio.
1. Assisting In Academic Achievement: Schools need help in meeting curriculum standards. For example, in January 2000, the Ohio Department of Education released report cards describing the academic performance of Ohio's school districts. The report showed that mastering the science proficiency tests is a problem for fourth-grade students statewide. Only 57 of the 607 school districts met the 75 percent standard for passing for the fourth-grade science test.
In the mid-1990s, Ohio participated in the State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER) whose purpose it was to study the "potential of environment-based education programs to improve student learning" and "influence the way young people learn to live successfully in the world that surrounds them". SEER issued its report in 1998 called "Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC) for Learning".
The report's findings are instructive. It states, "By providing a comprehensive educational framework, instead of traditional compartmentalized approaches, EIC appears to significantly improve student performance in reading, writing, math, science and social studies, and enriches the overall school experience."
2. Interacting With Nature Adds Educational Benefits: Hands-on learning experiences in nature are lacking at most schools. Ohio has many quality parks, residential centers, agencies, and educators involved in environmental education. Yet, nature centers fill a unique niche among the variety of places where environmental education occurs in Ohio. Nature centers provide structured programs and places for people to interact with nature where education is the highest priority.
The study published by SEER in 1998 verifies the wide benefits of the hands-on approach to education found at nature centers. According to the SEER report, "Students exposed to programs using EIC approaches often become enthusiastic, self-motivated learners. In addition to traditional subject-matter knowledge and basic life skills, EIC students gain a wealth of added educational benefits, including: a comprehensive understanding of the world; advanced thinking skills leading to discovery and real-world problem-solving; and, awareness and appreciation of the diversity of viewpoints within a democratic society."
3. Meeting Demand: The growing interest and demand for nature education is demonstrated by recent, major expansions of numerous existing nature centers from a variety of locations. The Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, Dayton; Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, Bay Village; The Wilderness Center, Wilmot (Stark County); and the Mohican School Outdoors, Richland County are examples of site-based nature education facilities which within the last three years undertook major, multimillion dollar capital campaigns to improve their facilities to meet growing demands for their services.
4. Saving Habitat: With development and population pressures expanding in Ohio, habitat is being lost at a rapid and steady rate. This contributes to most Ohioans living their lives further removed from interaction with the natural world than ever before. Nature centers save habitat and provide opportunities to gain awareness of the value of habitat to wildlife and people.
5. Developing an Ethic: Nature centers provide places where people, especially children, can be in nature. Even if a child participates in environmental education activities in schools, it doesn't always include a field-based experience. For children to develop an environmental ethic, they need opportunities to form an ongoing connection with the natural world. Nature centers provide this.
6. Closing Gaps in Service: The current distribution of outdoor nature education is not uniform across Ohio. Urban and rural areas are often neglected. Many Ohioans either don't know where nature centers are located or they aren't easily accessible.
7. Leadership Support: The leadership of environmental education in the state recently expressed a keen interest in broadening the availability of environmental education through nature centers in Ohio through a new state strategic plan for environmental education.
In 1999, EECO sponsored the creation of a statewide plan for environmental education, called "Ohio EE 2000, A Strategic Plan for Environmental Education in Ohio". Ohio EE 2000 was the product of nearly two years of effort by dozens of formal and non-formal educators from state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, schools, universities, nature centers and others.
The strategic recommendations found in Ohio EE 2000 are made to improve the quality and extent of environmental education in Ohio. Organized into sets of Objectives with companion Action Items, Ohio EE 2000 coincidentally recognizes Audubon's Vision 2020. Through Key Action Item 5.9, Ohio EE 2000 recommends:
"Identify environmental education centers in the state and create or encourage creation of centers in areas where they do not currently exist".
In July 2000, with the assistance of Kate Krulia, a senior from Denison University, Audubon Ohio surveyed 397 providers of nature education in Ohio. The purpose of the survey was to identify existing providers of outdoor nature education and gain a better understanding of the audiences they serve and the programming they provide. The information gained through the survey is a valuable guide for the development of Audubon's expanded system of nature centers.
A map showing the location of the providers of outdoor nature education in Ohio and a list of those providers is attached at the back of the Strategic Plan.
The Task Force proposes that the following geographic areas of Ohio appear to be in higher need of nature centers than others:
· the urban core of Ohio's major cities
· central Ohio, including Columbus
· eastern Ohio, south of Youngstown
· far northeastern Ohio
· the southeast quadrant of Ohio, except the Marietta area
· southern Ohio over to the Greater Cincinnati area
· northwest quadrant of Ohio, except the Toledo area
· western border counties, except eastern Hamilton County
The areas that appear to have a greater concentration of nature centers than elsewhere in Ohio are Cuyahoga County, the greater Dayton area, Hamilton County, Mahoning County, Richland County and Lucas County.
back to top
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
OF AUDUBON CENTERS IN OHIO
Audubon Centers in Ohio will be expected to meet a common set of standards in quality programming, financial self-sufficiency, ongoing evaluation, and responsibility to the community where they are located. The following set of goals and objectives will apply to all Audubon centers in Ohio.
GOAL 1 - Audubon Centers in Ohio will make quality nature education accessible to diverse audiences.
Objectives to achieve Goal 1
A. Audubon Centers in Ohio will provide lifelong learning for Ohioans of all ages with an emphasis on field-based programming for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students linked to curriculum standards.
B. Audubon Centers in Ohio will provide professional development for educators.
C. Audubon Centers in Ohio will provide after school learning.
D. Audubon Centers in Ohio will involve families in their activities and programs.
E. Audubon Centers in Ohio will be located to reach geographically and demographically under-served audiences.
F. Audubon Centers in Ohio will conduct ongoing evaluation to assure qualitative and quantitative goals are being achieved.
GOAL 2 - Long-term sustainability for delivering services through Audubon Centers in Ohio will be developed and secured.
Objectives to achieve Goal 2
A. Community partnerships and collaborations will be built with local Audubon chapters, public agencies, businesses, civic organizations and others.
B. An endowment will be established for operation and maintenance at each Audubon Center in Ohio.
C. A fundraising plan linked to statewide development goals will be created and followed at each Audubon Center in Ohio.
GOAL 3 - Audubon Centers in Ohio will teach responsibility and stewardship.
Objectives to achieve Goal 3
A. Audubon Centers in Ohio will provide education and training for current and future government and community decision-makers and the public on important conservation issues affecting their community.
B. Audubon Centers in Ohio will be built or remodeled and operated to incorporate "green building" principles and practices. The buildings themselves will serve as learning tools for their community.
back to top
AUDUBON CENTER SITE SELECTION CRITERIA
Numerous locations and partners are suitable for the establishment
of an Audubon Center. To help guide the decision-making
by Audubon Ohio as to what sites will be established as
centers, the Task Force developed an Audubon Center site
selection criteria. This criterion identifies specific elements,
which will be assessed to prioritize the progressive development
of centers across Ohio.
The Task Force recommends a weighted matrix be created for internal use by the Audubon Ohio Advisory Board of Directors to prioritize selection of Audubon Centers. Special emphasis is to be given to long-term financial sustainability. Above all, the Task Force recognizes that the success of Audubon centers is dependent on people feeling they own the center in their community.
Elements to be considered when assessing the viability of a site or facility as an Audubon Center are:
1. Staffing and programs at the Center are a part of the Audubon Ohio budget. Contractual relationships and agreements with partner(s) for land, building(s) and/or staff may be developed in order to ensure appropriate responsiveness to local concerns.
2. There is an assurance of an adequate endowment and ongoing operating support to ensure long-term sustainability of the center. A significant portion of financial support should be generated from the community where the center is located.
3. The opportunity for educational and recreational partnerships to create or operate a center exists (i.e. parks, Audubon chapters, school systems, government entities, corporations, soil and water districts, and environmental non-profit organizations).
4. The operation of the Audubon Center should not unduly impact a nearby viable nature education center.
5. The center has the capability to meet the needs of under-served and diverse audiences.
6. There is a commitment and interest from local community leaders.
7. There is a commitment and interest from the local education community.
8. The center has a resource base suitable for nature education programming.
9. The center has suitable geographic and handicap access for visitation.
10. Community conservation issues are promoted and valued.
11. There is a demonstrated community need for an Audubon Center.
12. The center is located in an area where critical decisions are before a community concerning how best to address habitat loss.
back to top
LIVING THE DREAM: AUDUBON CENTERS IN OHIO, 2001 - 2020
Based on the findings of our survey of existing providers of nature education in Ohio, Audubon Ohio assumes that approximately one-eighth (280,000) of pre-K - 12 students in Ohio are currently receiving outdoor nature education. This number of students represents one-half of Audubon's vision of providing outdoor nature education to one in four pre-K - 12th grade students in Ohio and across the nation. Audubon Ohio has a goal to provide outdoor nature education for 280,000 pre-K - 12th grade students in Ohio, those currently not served by an existing nature education center.
To do so, there would be approximately 27 Audubon Centers (including the existing Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm) through construction and/or collaboration operating across the state of Ohio by the year 2020. Ten of these Audubon Centers would likely be small, 10 medium and 7 large.
A small center will have an operating budget of around $100,000 a year and reach up to 5,000 pre-K - 12th grade students each year. A medium-sized center will have an operating budget of approximately $500,000 a year and reach up to 15,000 pre-K - 12th grade students each year. Large centers will have an operating budget of over $500,000 a year and reach up to 20,000 pre-K - 12th grade students each year.
Each center will have an endowment that will provide at least 30% of its operating revenue each year. An endowment of this size, through pledged or committed gifts, will be required before Audubon Ohio will establish any nature center (see Goal 2 above).
Staffing at Audubon Centers in Ohio will begin with a full-time Executive Director and Educator at the small centers and grow from there.
Each center will take from three to five years to become operational. A feasibility study and capital campaign will be completed before construction of a center can begin. Each capital campaign will include not only start-up costs but also an endowment and the first three years of operating support.
In addition to the already-established Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, the system of Audubon centers in Ohio will grow to four or five Audubon Centers in the first five years, another 10 by the year 2010 and the remainder by 2020.
The estimated cost of the Audubon Centers in Ohio from now until the year 2020 will likely involve more than $275 million. This estimate includes the cost of a feasibility study, costs of the fundraising campaign, an endowment, planning costs, construction costs, and the operating budget of each center from the year it opens through the year 2020. Arrangements with our partners at each center will influence the costs associated with constructing, maintaining and operating each center. Revenue to meet these costs includes donations of properties and funds received through grants, donations, planned giving and partnerships.
back to top
GETTING STARTED: AUDUBON CENTERS IN OHIO, 2001 - 2005
Audubon Ohio will establish three or four new Audubon Centers by 2005, which will reach a minimum of 10,000 students from grades pre-K - 12, including the creation of one model urban-based nature center. Audubon Ohio, using the weighted site selection matrix discussed earlier, will assess opportunities before us to determine which specific sites will become Audubon Centers during this period. A list of possible sites for new Audubon centers within the first five years and beyond is below.
Assuming four new centers (one small, two medium-sized and one large center), the estimated costs during the first five years will approach $20 million. As did the cost estimate for the entire plan, this estimate includes the cost of feasibility studies, fundraising campaigns, endowments, planning, construction, and the operating budget of each center from the year it opens through the year 2005. A host of variables such as partnership arrangements will influence the eventual operation and cost of these centers.
Preliminary List of Possible Sites for Audubon Centers Identified by the Task Force
All of the 19 sites listed below are suggested due to a combination of factors such as the availability of land, strong partnership possibilities, potential for fundraising, high interest from the local community, and/or a timely opportunity.
Prairie Oaks, eastern Madison County, in cooperation with Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks
Exposition Center at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, Columbus, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Ohio Wildlife Center partnership, Powell
Smith Farms, Columbus
Far Northeast Ohio
Ashtabula County, the Grand River watershed
Cuyahoga County, inner-city Cleveland at Canalway Center Park, in partnership with the Ohio Canal Corridor Inc. and Cleveland Metroparks
Athens County, in cooperation with Hocking College
Jackson County, Lake Katherine, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Vinton County, Lake Hope, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Adams County, Chaparral Prairie
Adams County, General Electric property
Lawrence County, in cooperation with Ohio University and the U.S. Forest Service
Pickaway County, Calamus Swamp, in cooperation with the Columbus Audubon Society
Pike County, at the Piketon Research and Extension facility, in cooperation with The Ohio State University and many others
Erie County, Edison Woods, in cooperation with Erie County Metroparks
Marion County, in partnership with the Kingswood Center
Northwest Ohio along the Ottawa River
Ottawa County, with the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
Western Border Counties
Butler County, west of Hamilton
Audubon Ohio will continue to gather information about the location of populations, and especially pre-K - twelfth grade students, vis a vis present nature centers and use this information to adjust the implementation of the Ohio Audubon Centers Strategic Plan.
Although the implementation of the Strategic Plan will be the responsibility of the Audubon Ohio Advisory Board of Directors, the Ohio Audubon Centers Strategic Planning Task Force will convene on an annual basis to review the progress of the plan and make recommendations to Audubon Ohio for further improvements, as needed.
back to top
Audubon Ohio, the Ohio program of the National Audubon Society, will develop a system of approximately 27 financially sound nature centers in urban, rural and suburban areas of Ohio by the year 2020. Through these centers, the face of outdoor environmental education will be changed forever in communities across the state. Lives will be touched and values developed. School-aged children will find their classroom learning enhanced and academic performance improved through their nature center experiences. Communities will have places where those who enjoy and appreciate nature can come together.
An ambitious, concerted effort over the next 20 years will achieve the 2020 Vision in Ohio. All who believe in Audubon's vision are warmly invited to share in the achievement of this exhilarating dream.
back to top
An enormous debt of gratitude is extended the participants of the Ohio Audubon Centers Strategic Planning Task Force. They provided tremendous expertise and guidance to Audubon Ohio and made the development of this Strategic Plan possible. They are:
Dick Emens, Task Force Chairman; Board member, Audubon Ohio and Partner,
Chester, Wilcox and Saxbe
Chris Anderson, Environmental Learning Program, Rural Action, Inc.
Susan Boggs, Interpretive Education Specialist, Columbus and Franklin
Guy Denny, retired Chief of the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves,
Bob Hinkle, Chief of Outdoor Education, Cleveland Metroparks
Dorothy Koontz, Board Member, Firelands Audubon Society
Charity Krueger, Executive Director, Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm
Jackie Light, Board Member, Tri-Moraine Audubon Society
Larry Martin, Manager, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
Gordon Maupin, Executive Director, The Wilderness Center
Lucy Miller, Development and Education Manager, Edge of Appalachia
Preserve System, The Nature Conservancy
John Mullaney, Executive Director, Nord Family Foundation
Trevor Polley, Site Director, Long Branch Farm, Cincinnati Nature Center
Jan Rodenfels, President, Columbus Audubon Society
Stephen Sedam, Executive Director, Audubon Ohio
Nancy King Smith, Director, The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes
Sam Speck, Director, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Lois Terveen, Program Supervisor, Erie County Metroparks
Carolyn Watkins, Chief, Office of Environmental Education, Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency
Deb Yandala, Director, Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center
Additional appreciation goes to: Arlene Acton, Director of Development, Audubon Ohio; Lyn Bo
one, Audubon Ohio Board member; Tamar Chotzen, Senior Vice President for Centers and Education, National Audubon Society; Patrick Galloway, Environmental Education Specialist, Ohio Environmental Education Fund; Cindy Juvinall, assistant to Dick Emens; Kate Krulia, senior at Denison University; and Liz Pomper, Office Manager, Audubon Ohio.
October 20, 2000
back to top