The Grand Garden Experiment

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Published on: May. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

the reserve’s 200 acres of restored prairie. Springtime blooms include shooting star and cream wild indigo, and the entire prairie undulates with waves of purple, pale green and pink as far as the eye can see. Dragonflies, migrating monarchs and many different species of birds soar past plantings of purple echinacea, prairie grass and goldenrod in the late summer and early fall. Each season crafts a new quilt of color.

Families will be delighted with the Wilderness Wagon, which offers guided tours on weekends in May and June from the Visitor Center. This 45-minute, narrated tour of the Shaw Nature Reserve rolls visitors past wetlands, shortleaf pine forest, tallgrass prairie and Pinetum Lake aboard an open-air wagon.

Dana Brown Overnight Education Center

Teachers of grades 4-12, corporate training professionals, conservation organizations and other groups enjoy accommodations and classes offered at the Dana Brown Overnight Education Center, on-site at the reserve. Four historic log cabins surround the large Assembly Building, which is used for training and meeting space. The buildings, which date back to around 1850, have been dismantled from sites within 100 miles of St. Louis and reconstructed with salvaged materials, much like the restoration approach used at the Bascom House. They feature modern amenities and are handicapped-accessible.

Shaw Nature Reserve staff work in tandem with teachers to create an inquiry- and standards-based learning approach. Math and science curriculums weave traditional classroom learning with field investigation. Courses cover orienteering, river ecology, nocturnal hiking, botany, environmental issues and other topics.

“Students and adults staying at the Overnight Center have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the natural world for an extended period,” says Lydia Toth, manager of education at the nature reserve. “Nighttime activities such as night hikes and astronomy classes offer a unique experience and are very popular. Many of our students have never seen a sky full of stars before, so this opens up a whole new world for them.”

The Center is surrounded by forest, prairie and wetland ecosystems, making it a wonderful resource for outdoor programs and field investigations, or just enjoying some quiet time in nature. Reservations and information may be obtained by calling (636) 451-3512, ext. 6081.

Volunteers are vital to the success of the programs, activities and operations at Shaw Nature Reserve. Volunteers assist staff with tours, education programs, special events, clerical work, greenhouse chores and much more. Without the commitment and dedication of these volunteers, Shaw Nature Reserve would not be able to offer its visitors so much access or so many experiences. Reserve volunteers work hard, but there are rewards. As volunteer Nancy Gelb says, “As a Teacher-Naturalist, I can be part of the future of the planet and maybe even make a difference in the way a child views the world.”

So whether your interest is nature photography, helping children learn about the natural world, cataloging plants or simply enjoying a cool spring morning walk, the next time you have a few hours or an afternoon free, be sure to visit Shaw Nature Reserve.

The Shaw Nature Reserve Statement of Purpose is:

To inspire responsible stewardship of our environment through education, restoration and protection of natural habitats, and public enjoyment of the natural world.

Hours: The grounds are open from 7 a.m. until dark. Visitor Center hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for adults over 65 years, and free for members of the Missouri Botanical Garden and children under 12.

The Bascom House, Crescent Knoll Overlook, Maritz Trail House and sections of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden are wheelchair-accessible.

Shaw Nature Reserve is located 35 miles west of St. Louis at the intersection of Interstate 44 and Highway 100, at Exit 253. Go online or call (636) 451-3512 for more information.

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