Environmental Learning Center hosts after-hours holiday event
By Jessica Tuggle
WABASSO — Where in Indian River County can you meet a Florida Santa, take an evening canoe ride in the mangroves and read a story while taking a walk?
Why, the Environmental Learning Center in Wabasso.
“WinterGreen NightLights” is a new, after-hours holiday activity for the community that focuses on activities and nature.
Featuring handmade recycled ornaments, cookie decorating, visiting with Santa, local choirs, a canoe trip at dusk, geocaching, a Christmas story and a lit walking trail, the event will provide an evening of fun for the family.
The event is scheduled for Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Members of the Environmental Learning Center and children 12 and younger are free. All other visitors are $5 and all of the activities are included in the entry price.
Heather Stapleton, education director, said this was the first time the learning center would be open for an event after normal hours and the twinkling lights in the natural Florida setting will be a beautiful sight.
“We are very excited about it. We’ve never done an after-hours event, we’ve never done a holiday event and we’ve never done a Story Walk ®,” Ms. Stapleton said.
Instead of a scheduled indoor group story time, visitors can read a story and take a walk in nature at the same time, she said.
“All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go,” by Daniel M. Joseph and Lydia Mendel will be the featured story for the event. Visitors will walk along George’s Trail West at their own pace and read sections of the story along the way.
The story is about a little boy from up North who visits his grandparents in Florida for Christmas and overdresses for the weather. Eventually, the unneeded layers come off and instead of snow, he finds something else to shape into a favorite holiday character, Ms. Stapleton said.
Story Walk ® was developed in 2007 by Anne Ferguson, a volunteer with the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition to encourage reading and exercise. This is the first time Story Walk ® will be done in Indian River County, and the learning center is hoping to hold a different one in the spring, Ms. Stapleton said.
Elementary school choirs will perform at different times during the night. The crafts and Story Walk ® will be ongoing activities, but the canoe trips, geocaching and nature walk have closing times.
The mangroves near the learning center will be lit by battery operated LED lights, making the canoe trips from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. more festive.
Geocaching, or high-tech treasure hunting using GPS tools, will take place from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Once the sunlight has begun to disappear, the lights will be turned on for the nature walk along the Native Way Trail all the way to the Indian River Lagoon.
During the event, the Discovery Center and touch tank will also be open, Ms. Stapleton said.
“Getting people out in nature and appreciating nature is our whole goal. We didn’t want to be a drive by where you look at decorations,” she said.
“It’s active. We have hands-on, make and take crafts, you can go for a canoe trip. We tried to make it convenient for parents because we want them to bring their kids to experience it,” Ms. Stapleton said.
For more information, call (772) 589-5050 or visit www.discoverelc.org.