In his book, The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv sounds an alarm regarding the rise in attention-deficit disorders and depression among children, and its corollary connection: a serious outdoor deficiency. “Time in nature is not leisure time,” Louv writes. “It is an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).
With over 200,000 visitors in 2021 so far, Lost River Cave is leveraging its expertise and has launched a movement that will connect kids, families, our community, and region with nature on another level.
There are over 600 nature centers in the country, yet one does not exist within a 26-county region surrounding Lost River Cave. The 72-acre property contains seven natural ecosystems making it a premier outdoor learning destination for all of South Central Kentucky.
The good news: There has been a 343% increase in the number of school children participating in our programs since 2008. Lost River Cave has provided over 25,000 educational program experiences to K-12 students, and the demand is growing.
The bad news: Due to the limitations of its existing facilities, some school field trips and groups are turned away and rescheduled if possible because Lost River Cave cannot accommodate them all at once.
The remedy: With the addition of the Nature Discovery Center, capacity will double to serve more schools with immersive experiences and provide the facilities needed for more community activities, rain or shine.
The campaign for the Nature Discovery Center is focused on fundraising for three areas of need:
- Nature Discover Center Building
- Visitor center, gift shop, and restrooms
- Conference area with classroom/meeting/event space
- Museum-quality educational exhibits
- Outdoor space for events and educational programs
- Annual Support for increased opportunities of impact
- Endowment to provide for the future
The Nature Discovery Center is a critical addition to our facilities and will become Lost River Cave’s gateway to nature. The entire campus will expand opportunities for public and private use of the park. Everything about the Nature Discovery Center will draw visitors into their own transformational discoveries.
Visitors will wander through exhibits that describe habitats found on the 72-acre park, review the geology and history of the land, and begin their own personal discoveries. In the exhibit area, discovery drawers and graphic panels will complement each display and engage all the senses. Staff will be on hand to present educational programs. Specially designed materials will provide hands-on learning experiences such as bird watching with binoculars and field guidebooks.
Construction of phase one will begin upon reaching the $3 million goal. The campaign’s total goal is $4.2 million.
It is important to lay the foundation for the future by securing funding to support expanded programming, additional staff, and the continued conservation of this amazing living laboratory. Annual support will fund staff training for nature-centered and place-based educational programs; volunteer training; community education events; and a wide variety of activities such as workshops, field research, classroom activities, and guided hikes.
Whenever an organization makes capital additions, it is wise to provide corresponding support for ongoing maintenance of its newly created facilities as well as the assets it already manages. Therefore, the campaign for the Nature Discovery Center will provide an Endowment Fund to support overhead and operating costs for the new facilities and the 72-acre park that is the foundation for this expansion. It will help provide maintenance funding for areas of the park to be utilized in expanded educational programming such as the prairie, meadow, wetland, trails, and cave ecosystem.
The capital campaign for the Nature Discovery Center and endowment fund provide an opportunity for individuals, businesses, and foundations to leave a lasting mark on Bowling Green, Warren County, and the surrounding region. The Nature Discovery Center will be South Central Kentucky’s gateway to nature. It will house exhibits that will give children, families, and individuals the confidence to explore the natural world around them, starting with Lost River Cave’s 72-acres of woods and wetland, meadow and prairie, river and cave. Groups that will be impacted are:
Lost River Cave’s curriculum-based educational programs fuel excitement for learning, bring lessons to life, and provide opportunities for all learning styles. Studies show that children learning in natural environments have better academic performance, enhanced attention, improved behavior, and increased engagement and enthusiasm.
Nature relieves stress, aggression, anxiety, and depression, but to benefit from it, we must get out and experience it. The Nature Discovery Center will be the place to find new knowledge and gain skills that will inspire kids, adults, and families to spend time in nature and reap the health and wellness benefits it provides.
Families and individuals unable to travel to Yellowstone and beyond will find their transformative eco-escape at Lost River Cave. The Nature Discovery Center and its museum-quality exhibits will interpret the park’s seven ecosystems, providing a deeper connection to the great outdoors. This gateway to nature will provide a resource that is unmatched in our region.
Opportunities for WKU students and faculty will increase greatly as they utilize the Nature Discovery Center campus for everything from applied learning to the arts. It will take them beyond WKU’s campus to make additional connections with the Bowling Green community at large encouraging them to stay beyond their college years.
Partnerships with area youth organizations and community groups will find even deeper roots because of new opportunities for engagement. Plans will be less weather-dependent allowing us to serve our mission and our partners’ missions more meaningfully. New partnerships will flourish given the literal space to grow.