EcoCenter starts Swaner Sunday Craft Sesssions | ParkRecord.com

EcoCenter starts Swaner Sunday Craft Sesssions

Weekly event open to all ages

Wine corks will be used to make animals during the Swaner EcoCenter’s inaugural Swaner’s Craft Sunday on March 19. The event will run weekly from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Swaner EcoCenter opened in 2008 with a mission.

The nonprofit, located at 1258 Center Drive at Kimball Junction, is "dedicated to preserve the land and the human connection to the natural landscape, but also educate the local and broader communities about the value of nature and nurture both the ecosystem and the people connected to it."

The people the statement refers to includes all ages, especially children.

In 2005, before the EcoCenter was built, the Swaner Preserve, which now reaches 1,200 acres, hosted field trips for students in grades four and five.

Today, the EcoCenter offers spring and summer camps, an ecosystem-themed climbing wall, Little Naturalist Story Times, hands-on exhibits and family-friendly tours and outings.

A new free weekly program called Swaner Sunday Crafts will start on Sunday, March 19. The environmentally themed sessions, will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We will alternate the theme each week, and will try our best to use recycled materials to make the craft," said Ashleigh Hammond, ecohost and volunteer coordinator. "This is just one way the craft fits into the EcoCenter's mission.

Kids who participate in the first craft session this Sunday will make animals out of wine corks.

"I work at a restaurant and I have been collecting these corks," Hammond said. "I believe the next craft will use egg cartons."

A volunteer will oversee the sessions, which are open to all ages.

"Since I am the EcoHost, I will be here, but we will have another volunteer who will help the kids," Hammond said. "And there is no limit to the number of children who can come participate."

The idea to offer a Sunday craft session stems from the monthly Little Naturalist Story Times that feature book readings and a craft.

"Anytime we do that, kids will immediately gravitate to the craft, and we find a lot of times that younger kids want to be interactive in some ways," Hammond said. "So, we have been thinking about doing something more often and more consistent over the past few months."

The idea built momentum over the past few months since Hammond took over the volunteer program.

"Not only is this good for our visitors, but it gives the volunteers at the Swaner EcoCenter something more to help with," she said.

Still, the underlying goal is to introduce children to environmental issues and nurture a love for conservation.

"We want the EcoCenter to become kids' gateway to nature," Hammond said. "Not only do we want kids to go outside and interact directly in that element, we also want them to learn about animals, plants and specific items that have to do with nature.

"These crafts will give them additional ideas of what these animals or plants are while catering to their creativity. If you reach younger kids, they have more of a chance to think of the environment and sustainable issues."

A craft session for all ages will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday, starting March 19, at the Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Dive at Kimball Junction. The crafts will be nature-themed. For information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org.