‘Nature Station’ focus of Rotary program
By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY – Ben Berthelot, director of community development for the city of Lafayette, and Stacy Scarce, curator of the Natural Science Acadiana Park Nature Station in Lafayette, presented a program about the nature station, located at 1205 E. Alexander St. in Lafayette.
The facility, owned and operated by the Lafayette Consolidated Government, features a three-story tree house that is used for educational purposes, especially environmental education, as well as a two and a half mile trail.
Berthelot opened the program stating it was refreshing to be in Crowley to talk about something positive.
“When I say where I work, I always get asked the same question, ‘Do you work for the housing authority?’,” he said. “But it goes to my point, when people think of the government and government-run entities, they always think of the negative. That’s why I’m so happy to be speaking here today.”
Berthelot turned the program over to Scarce, who has been with the Acadiana Park Nature Station for 18 years now.
The station, according to Scarce, serves several different functions. They see a lot of school groups from various parishes across the southern part of the state, particularly from Lafayette Parish. In fact, Scarce says that in this school year, they’ve already seen 150 fourth grade classes from Lafayette Parish alone. School groups get various time amounts at the station, but they see one group per day and learn about landforms, recycling, native plants and basic needs of animals and plants in the region. The boardwalk portions of the facility serving as part of the hands-on learning experience provided by the station. The third floor of the facility also features a classroom setting that aids in the learning experience.
Besides the school groups, the facility also has a Youth Naturalist Club for 10- to 13-year-olds. The club meets once per month for three hours for one full year. The club started six years ago and is made of 20 students each year. A Junior Naturalist Club has also been formed. It meets once per month for two hours for four months.
The club also gets the opportunity to perform a little scientific research, such as studying frogs.
“We’ve produced some really good kids,” said Scarce. “We test them at the end and if they pass, and they always do, they can help us with our Jr. Naturalist and Young Naturalist clubs and present information to them.”
The station offers its trails free to families during all daylight hours, but the facility itself is only open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. They also have a Facebook page which is updated pretty regularly and allows users the opportunity to ask questions to the nature center. It also provides an outlet for “nature journaling,” one of Scarce’s favorite things.