Minnesotans By Nature Profile
By Sarah Shimek
River Bend Nature Center, located in Faribault, about 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities, is a hidden urban nature treasure in south central Minnesota. River Bend encompasses just over 743 acres that include the Straight River Valley, Big Woods remnants, 2 restored wetlands, a seasonal waterfall, and restored tall and short grass prairies.
River Bend uses these diverse habitats as a background for various educational program and events throughout the year. We have several annual events but two of our most popular are our "Bats, Bones, & Bonfires" Halloween event which features our live teaching animals, enchanted trails, games, and entertainment and draws between 1000-1500 visitors and our Maple Syrup 5/10K Fun Run and Pancake Brunch in April where winners are given bottles of real maple syrup from River Bend's own sugar bush. River Bend's education department also has a long-term partnership with the local school district and since our founding in 1978, all K-6th grade students in the public schools visit River Bend 2-3 times a year for experiential field studies. Kindergarten students visit RBNC in the fall, winter, and spring to explore the seasons and use their senses to observe the natural world. In first grade, students study animal homes and habitats in the fall and life cycles during the spring. Second grade students focus their field studies on plants, investigating different types of seeds in the fall and learning about special plant adaptations in the spring. Third grade students learn all about the Nature Pyramid and food webs during their fall and winter visits and also practice snowshoeing and kicksledding during the winter. Currently, 4th grade students study the prairie in the fall and the forest in the spring but with changing grade standards their curriculum will shift to rocks & minerals and the water cycle starting in 2015. Fifth graders study aquatic ecosystems in the fall and geological processes such as weathering and erosion in the spring. For their final year at River Bend, 6th graders study biomimicry and bioengineering during the fall and wrap up their time at River Bend with compass courses in the spring.
In partnership with Rice County, River Bend also provides waste education to students in all public and parochial schools across the county. RBNC educators bring recycling and waste reduction programs to students primarily in grades 3 & 4 during the months of January-March. The education department at River Bend also provides several types of outreach programming including: experiential science classes for homeschool groups, Science Club programs for students on early release days, Creciendo Juntos classes in partnership with the McKinley Early Childhood Center, programs on the history and science of maple syruping, snowshoe and kicksled programs, EE-based birthday parties, and custom programs for outside schools and organizations.
Our staff consists of 4 permanent full time employees (Executive Director, Administrative Assistant, Director of Education, and Director of Public Programs), 2 permanent part time employees (Education Program Specialist, Communications Coordinator), 3-4 seasonal educators, a receptionist, and 1 maintenance worker. River Bend hires several seasonal educators throughout the year. During the school year, there are 3-4 Seasonal Environmental Educators on staff who help lead school programs, public programs, and outreach programs. Over the summer we hire 2-3 Summer Program Educators to lead our naturalist-based summer camps and public programs, and an Outdoor Adventures Program Specialist who works with our outdoor skills/recreation camps and programs.
For more information on River Bend or our upcoming programs, visit our website at www.rbnc.org
, like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RiverBendMN
, or call 507-332-7151.