Nurture Nature Center
The Nurture Nature Center is a joint project of the Nurture Nature Foundation (“NNF”) and a sister nonprofit, named Nurture Nature Center, Inc. The sister nonprofit was founded in 2007 and has the same mission as NNF, but is headquartered in Pennsylvania where the Center is located, to provide a local base for action there. NNF contributes to the Center’s work not only by providing space for it to operate, but also by dedicating staff time and making cash donations each year to NNC, Inc., to supplement the income generated by government and private grants.
The Nurture Nature Center's work focuses on engaging the public in dialogue about a broad-range of environmental issues, to promote science learning, critical thinking and decision-making. Topics range from community engagement to flood risk preparedness. The Center has also been involved in educating the public about the availability and benefits of local foods. Some of the main areas of work at NNC are described here.
PUBLIC DIALOGUE AND EXHIBITS
NNC has fostered dialogue on environmental issues in a variety of ways. It began by conducting a series of participatory public forums in the surrounding communities. Following that, it opened its doors to the public and began to offer a variety of programs and exhibits.
NNC’s most important exhibit is Science on a Sphere, which debuted in 2011. SOS is a six-foot suspended globe that can display a wide variety of programs, including dramatic depictions of the paths of actual hurricanes and tsunamis, and dynamic models of other events and trends such as population growth, solar flares, constellations, sea turtle migrations and land use development. The Center uses the exhibit as a springboard for engaging the public in dialogue about topics that concern them. SOS was developed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is available at only a limited number of SOS locations worldwide.
NNC also hosts other activities designed to foster public dialogue on environmental risk topics of local and regional concern. In addition to forums and exhibits, the outreach includes speaking events, art shows, documentary films, workshops and focus groups, on a wide range of topics such as flooding and weather, urban gardens, local foods, fracking, solar energy, pesticide use, nature photography and nature journaling.
FLOOD PREPAREDNESS AND EDUCATION
A primary focus of NNC’s work since inception has been flood risks and how to prepare for them. NNC’s first flood-related project was a “Flood Safety Education and Awareness Campaign” in the Delaware River Basin, an area that had suffered repeated flooding during the period 2004-06. The campaign resulted in the development of a variety of flood education materials that can be replicated by communities nationwide, including coloring books, refrigerator magnets and instructional DVDs, along with an award-winning film by Easton's Emmy-winning illustrator Maciek Albrecht. NOAA has played an important role in disseminating these materials by, among other things, including them in its publications to emergency managers.
NNC has also produced a program for Science on a Sphere, named "Rising Waters," which is currently available through NOAA’s SOS network on SOS spheres across the world and can also be accessed in script form by the public. “Rising Waters” is designed to help audiences understand the connections between climate and flooding. Nurture Nature Center won a national media/outreach award from the Association of State Floodplain Managers for its “Rising Waters” program.
NNC maintains a website with flood education materials, including those it developed, called Focus on Floods. A series of programs by NNC on flooding that were aired on public radio are also available on the site. NNC has also created a series of flood education videos that can be viewied on its Youtube channel.
NNC has also been active in promoting the development of a local food economy and educating the public about the benefits of buying local foods. Its work has included programs to help local farmers sell to wholesale markets and programs to encourage teach school children the benefits of healthy local foods. NNC also puts out a local food guide for the Lehigh Valley region available for download here and in 2014 completed a regional assessment of the Lehigh Valley Food Economy, which evaluated food access issues and made recommendations for how to improve fresh food access in food deserts and generally throughout the valley. The report, which was widely circulated, was prepared for the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission in connection with its "Envision Lehigh Valley" initiative.
STUDIES AND PUBLICATIONS
NNC has produced a number of studies and publications. Early on, it produced a guidebook for other museums and science centers across the country about how to host forums on local environmental risk topics, entitled “From Risk to Resiliency” which is available to the public. The guidebook explains how environmental risk topics that the community is already concerned about can be used to promote science learning and community resiliency.
NNC has also conducted studies on communicating with the public about flood risks, drawing on a body of social science work about public hazards preparedness. Its study on "Flood Risk and Uncertainty" considers how people understand and use the National Weather Service's flood forecast and warning tools and, and has been employed by NOAA to improve its communications with the general population. Another study by NNC, “They Had the Facts, Why Didn’t They Act?” was designed to develop recommendations about communication techniques that could help the public and emergency management officials better understand the intensity and possible effects of coastal storms, to improve the likelihood that residents would respond appropriately.
NNC has also produced a guidebook on using nature journalling for science based education, and two reports on its "Perspectives on Art and the Environment" series (which can be accessed here and here). In addition, a children's coloring book called "Floods Happen, Lessen the Loss" produced by NNC is available for download, as is detailed guidebook NNC produced on Living Local which provides captivating graphic illustrations of a large array of local environmental issues to spur dialogue.