This spring TNI staff installed new equipment and updated some of the existing recreation for our natural play area. Before the update, our play area included the eagle’s nest, burrow, fossil dig, a climbing log, alligator pit, an amphitheater and a fire pit. In our newly updated play area, we have added Honey’s Hive, the Bobcat Walk, the Mississippi Mud Kitchen, a Human Sundial, an art station, the Geology Garden in memory of Judy Hoffman and a climbing wall. The Eagle’s Nest was moved and improved on and the fire pit was adjusted to accommodate larger groups.

The Eagle’s Nest is the size of a true eagle nest and was first installed in 2005. It quickly became a favorite at TNI. It is a great place to take pictures. Our campers have become birds by adding vines, sticks and scarves to make the Eagle’s Nest more “comfy” and fun.

The burrow is a tunnel that kids can crawl through to arrive in a small home, just like ground dwelling mammals. The update gave us grass over the top so children can enjoy every bit.

The Fossil Dig is a large sandbox with bones and rocks buried in the sand. Kids are always excited to see what they uncover!

The Alligator Pit is a team building area. We have timbers that can be moved within the area to make a path. This activity teaches students and campers how to use teamwork to accomplish a goal.

The Amphitheater is an open area where campers show what they have learned for parents and guardians. We hope to incorporate this area into more of our programming in the future. An Eagle Scout worked on the update the benches with his scout troop and the amphitheater looks great.

Honey’s Hive is a new addition to our play area. It is made out of recycled lumber. Kids are able to climb up the outside, through the inside and enjoy sitting on the top ledge.

The Bobcat Walk is also new to the play area. It is made of all natural materials harvested from the property. It has a ladder to climb up to a platform and then a ramp down the other side. You can survey your territory like the bobcats that live on our sanctuary.

The climbing wall is a three sided apparatus that has rocks to climb on one side and ladders on the other two sides. Our campers this summer have loved climbing to the top.

The Mississippi Mud Kitchen was a fast favorite of campers and parents alike. We have counters set up for preparing mud pies and cakes, with tons of kitchen utensils to prepare them with. Who doesn’t like to get a little muddy?

The Human Sundial was also an Eagle Scout project. Come out on a sunny day, stand on the month and look at where your shadow falls. Figure out what time it is, no phone or watch necessary.

The art station, and soon to come music station, include a double sided chalk board and a clear Plexiglas board where kids can finger paint. The music station will have buckets full of homemade instruments for your musical imaginings.

The Geology Garden is installed and ready for you to be a rock hound. We have a few examples of large rocks that can be found all over the United States; Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary rocks are all included in this unique area. We plan to make this an interpretive journey through the rock cycle with identification panels.

Our campers and school groups have enjoyed all the new additions as well as the old favorites. We are excited to see kids use their imagination and investigate nature. Come out and have some fun playing and exploring with us.

Ramona Puskar

Education Assistant