Interactive Educational Experiences
When we remember that everything is connected,
we bring the world together.
Mount Pisgah Arboretum is reconnecting people with nature
through interactive educational experiences.
Update: The first exhibit is now complete! Read the Register-Guard article here.
These days it seems a lot of people have lost their connection with the natural world. The climate is changing and natural areas keep shrinking. It’s easy to feel helpless and disconnected. We aim to change the world by reconnecting people with nature. That can start by making a connection with the ecology of our own backyards.
Mount Pisgah is Eugene and Springfield’s “backyard,” and Mount Pisgah Arboretum has been teaching people about this special place for over forty years. The Arboretum’s unique 209-acre site contains a wide range of ecosystems in a relatively small area. From beautiful oak savannahs to lush Douglas-fir forests, from vibrant wetlands to ancient Incense-cedars, this is the perfect setting to teach people about Southern Willamette Valley ecology.
The Arboretum receives about 400,000 visits annually. Right now, only about 3% of visitors take part in our educational programs. Through our interpretive program, we plan to reach the other 97%. We’re creating eight new interactive exhibits, one in each of our diverse habitats, to better connect people with nature and inspire a greater understanding and appreciation of our local environment.
Imagine walking through the canopy of a Douglas-fir forest, enjoying a gopher’s eye view of a grassy meadow, or peeking through hidden windows into the life of a wetland. Our first exhibit is already completed.
… Visitors walking through our lush Water Garden will find themselves at the flared entrance to a woven tunnel.
… As they enter their eyes are drawn upward to the Oregon ash canopy, and sideways to imagery and a short history of the wandering river which created this unique wetland.
… As the tunnel rounds a corner, it abruptly ends and our visitors find themselves entering another woven structure—this one resembling an upturned bird’s nest.
… As shafts of sunlight leak through, they find panels with information about wetland residents which slide open and reveal portals into the surrounding wetland.
… Opening the panels, they might see pond lilies, frogs, dragonflies, newts, wood ducks, and warblers. They have entered into an innovative wildlife viewing blind.
At our exhibits, visitors might learn about how humans have maintained the oak savannah for millennia, how fungi create a web of connections underground, how Pacific Lamprey make it here from the ocean and over Willamette Falls, or how a wasp tricks a leaf into growing a home for its young. Global concepts are illustrated through local stories, highlighting the interconnectedness of the natural world through the lens of individual species.
Each of our exhibits will be designed to engage visitors in a deeper connection with the world around them. Each will be designed to fit into its surroundings, and reflect the habitat it represents. Visitors will be invited to experience, and to engage with their surroundings, and inspired to explore whenever they find themselves in nature, including in city parks and their own backyards. Learning about the environment will be active and sensory, combining scientific investigation with an emotional connection. Content will be accessible and relevant to all ages, cultures, and learning styles.
Our first exhibit is complete, and the second, in our Incense-cedar forest, will be finished early in summer 2016. Our timeline calls for installing two or three exhibits each year, and completing the program’s capital phase with installation of our entrance kiosk in early 2019.
To finish our interpretive exhibits we need to raise $575,000. Thanks to a grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a sponsorship pledge from Mountain Rose Herbs, and generous gifts from individual donors we are already half way there. Mount Pisgah Arboretum’s programs and projects have always been generously supported by the community, and grassroots funding has been key to our success. For this project, individual donations, both large and small will play an important role. Donating is easy, and our monthly giving program provides an easy way to make a big difference with incremental amounts.
Donors who give $1,000 or more will be acknowledged on a plaque near the entrance kiosk. Donors may also choose to sponsor all or part of an exhibit. Contact Executive Director, Brad van Appel for information about exhibit sponsorship.
Contact Interpretation Coordinator, August Jackson to ask about giving non-monetary support to the interpretive program.
For more information about the interpretive program,
contact August Jackson at 541-741-4110 or
All photos by August Jackson