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Millbrook Marsh Nature Center's Education Building Expansion

Impact Area: Conservation, Health and Wellness
Region: Northeast

The Millbrook Marsh Nature Center is expanding its education building to accommodate the demand for increased nature-based programming!

$665 Raised out of $25,000
11 Donors
0 Days Remaining

About this project.

Millbrook Marsh is “an awesome resource in our community that benefits everybody. From kids with the Puddle Jumpers program...to the elderly. It’s a wonderful green space that we have right in the middle of State College; it’s our own Central Park.” --MMNC Participant

"For children, the sense of freedom experienced during the unstructured play that occurs in nature creates a source of independence and inner strength that can be drawn on during stressful situations for the rest of their lives." --Nature Play SA

Over the last 20 years, the beloved Millbrook Marsh Nature Center has grown exponentially from the early programming days in 1997 to 3,000 visitors for programs, events, and rentals in the year 2000, to 14,000 visitors last year; not including the countless visitors who explore the Marsh on their own for hiking, wildlife viewing, picnicking, and other recreational uses. A contributor to this growth was Phase I development of the Spring Creek Education Building (SCEB) built in 2011. While this growth is exciting, we are experiencing limitations on our existing facilities. The SCEB is the only temperature-controlled facility on-site and is limited to 50 people per floor. The facility can only accommodate one group at a time due to size and sound restraints. With increased programming and uses it is necessary for all portions of the current facility to be multipurpose spaces. 

Our Puddle Jumpers Nature-Based program is the only one of its kind in the area!  Did you know that "Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and being at one with the world (Crain 2001)?  And that early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb 1977, Louv 1991)? 

In 2016, Millbrook Marsh with the assistance of a fundraising consultant conducted an audit for the organization to assess the needs for the center in the community. Using interview and survey methods a total of 145 individuals participated in the assessment.  The significant impacts Millbrook Marsh Nature Center has on the community reported by users include the preservation of unique natural habitats (such as the fen), accessibility including location and ADA compliance, educational programming for all ages, wildlife viewing, and a place for health and wellness. The community wants to see the Nature Center expand the number and variety of naturalist-led programs for children and adults, to have better access to scientific and factual information, to improve the current facility, and hold additional events such as music, movies, trade fairs, and art exhibits that are appropriate for the venue. 

Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children (Moore 1986, Bixler et al. 2002).  Outdoor environments are important to children's development of independence and autonomy (Bartlett 1996).  

Our vision for the SCEB Phase II expansion mirrors that of the community which is to provide a four-season large classroom, meeting and event space for 100-120 people, add additional ADA restrooms to accommodate large events, including a family restroom, provide space for a volunteer greeter and educational displays, and to allow multiple groups and programs to use the facility at the same time. We envision the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center becoming a frequent destination place for citizens of the region, and for occasional visits by a broader range of Pennsylvania residents. 

How will this impact your community?

We exist to make a difference in our community!  From the smallest family interaction:  “Fresh air, a gentle breeze, the warmth of the sun, the fragrance of flowers and grass can calm both a fussy baby and a frazzled parent, allowing for one of those special moments of quiet connection.”  To the bigger picture:  "Attachment isn’t the only aspect of childhood development that can be supported by time in nature. Over the last decade, researchers have discovered many fascinating connections between nature play and children’s cognitive, physical, and emotional development. Time outdoors—especially unstructured time in more natural settings—can reduce children’s stress, increase their curiosity and creativity, improve their physical coordination, and reduce symptoms associated with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and other conditions."

Millbrook Marsh Nature Center promotes healthy living through outdoor connections.  Phase II will lead to increased visitors and activity at the Nature Center. The facility expansion will provide ADA four-season classrooms to increase organized programming, workshops and classes such as bird, plant, and mammal identification, gardening and composting workshops; speaker series; yoga classes; a permanent space for the Puddle Jumpers nature play program; and more diverse programs for area school children of all ages, as well as adult learners. All programs are intended to promote health and wellness and help people build connections to the natural world. Indoor educational programming is often accompanied by outdoor follow-up sessions and guided walks. These programs also provide participants with tools they can take with them to explore the outdoors at their own pace using the 2,500-foot boardwalk and trails through the wetlands and along the three stream flowing through Millbrook Marsh.

While it is important to provide opportunities for all ages, including adults and senior, it is imperative to provide opportunities for children to connect with nature. Puddle Jumpers incorporates unstructured nature play mixed with hands-on nature-based, leader led activities utilizing both indoor and outdoor spaces year-round. Through these interactions the Puddle Jumpers program fosters young stewards of the Earth. It is important to build these connections early. Research shows that the children who have a connection with the natural world grow to adulthood with a desire to protect the environment.  

Our centralized location and increased programming have resulted in an exponential growth of visitors. Community members are interested in expanded environmental education opportunities through events, workshops, classes, programs and rental space, documented in the 2016 surveys. 

About us!

Whether visitors walk, ride, or drive to the Nature Center, providing quality environmental education and opportunities for hands-on discovery remain a priority. Once the expanded four-season Spring Creek Education Building is completed, the existing space will include a Welcome Area with a gift shop and educational displays, and a wildlife/wetland viewing area. The additional facility space will allow Nature Center staff and volunteers to expand programming, classes, workshops, events, information accessibility, and rental opportunities that the community desires. One of the new classrooms will provide a permanent space for the Puddle Jumpers nature play program for preschool age children, allowing the program to expand.


Millbrook Marsh Nature Center's Spring Creek Education Building (SCEB) Phase II development is well underway.  30% construction documents are complete including renderings. Final construction documents and building blueprints will be finalized in Spring 2018.  The total project cost for the SCEB Phase II expansion is $1.8 million dollars.  

Our tentative timeline includes the following:
--Fundraising and municipal contributions/budgetary work now through Spring of 2018.
--Progressing to completed construction documents with review through Spring of 2018.
--Final permitting in Spring of 2018
--Issuance of bid documents for construction in Summer of 2018.
--Groundbreaking in Fall of 2018
--Project completion in Fall of 2019 or late Winter of 2020 (weather dependent in Central PA)

Pamela J. Salokangas, CRPR, CPSI
Centre Region Parks & Recreation
Melissa Freed Kauffman, Ctr. Sup
Millbrook Marsh Nature Center Su

About Pamela J. Salokangas, CRPR, CPSI

Pam began work with CRPR on August 22, 2016 and became the Director effective September 1, 2016. Pam most recently served as General Park Manager for The Adventure Park at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, MA -an aerial adventure park operated by Outdoor Ventures. Prior to that position, she was the Director of Parks and Recreation for Shenandoah County Virginia Parks and Recreation for 8 1/2 years and Park Manager of Claude Moore Park in Sterling, VA with Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services. She has a B.S. from Penn State in Recreation and Park Mgmt. and an M.Ed. from the Univ. of Georgia in Recreation and Leisure Studies / Public Administration. Pam is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP) and a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI), both from the National Recreation and Park Assn. Pam is originally from Waynesburg, PA and lives in Patton Township with her husband, Greg. Her hobbies include geocaching, USTA League Tennis, kayaking, graphic design, road-tripping/travel, and arts & crafts.

About Melissa Freed Kauffman, Ctr. Sup

Melissa joined CRPR as a seasonal Program Coordinator in 2009; the position was expanded to year-round in Jan. 2014. Melissa was then named as Acting Nature Center Supervisor in June 2015 and promoted to Nature Center Supervisor in Oct. 2015. She has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the Pennsylvania State University and holds teaching certificates for Agriculture, Environmental and General Sciences. Originally from State College, Melissa resides in Ferguson Township. Her hobbies include hiking, camping, canoeing and birding.