The family is what we are about and we lost a member of our Whole Family. A few years ago, Lead Teacher Megan Gessler attended a course offered by the Chicago Zoological Society that featured ideas on how to create nature play spaces. This was just the inspiration needed to spark the desire to create a similar space at the Hoover Forest Preserve. With a green light from the administration, and lots of excitement, funding was needed to begin. It just so happened that when Megan took her children to see their pediatrician, Dr. Natalie, she overheard her speaking with her receptionist, Stephanie, about the need for a children’s garden to inspire the local children to get back to nature. Megan mentioned that she had the perfect space if they would like to help her find a way to help fund it. A few months later, Stephanie passed away unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart issue. Dr. Natalie called Megan to let her know that they would like to create the space in Stephanie’s honor. The children’s garden is named Stephanie’s Garden.
Natalie Drummond, Stephanie’s sister-in-law Jessica Harvey, Megan Gessler, Laura McCoy, Lisa Booker and Ashley Kelly formed an initiative to collect funds, materials and manpower to fulfill the dream. The administration at the Kendall County Forest Preserve District was equally passionate about providing a space where children can play in the preserve that is off the sanctioned trails. This is a space where children can be encouraged to engage each of their senses while playing freely with nature, a place where a child is encouraged to touch, dig, climb, get dirty, and most of all partake in unstructured play.
This was definitely a community effort, with local landscapers, plumbers, volunteer groups, scout troops and the children throughout Kendall County having participated in the creation of the Nature Exploration Station. All had plans and ideas and made it happen.