Where can you go to study snake skins under a magnifying glass? How about touch wasps’ nests (without the wasps in them, of course), and peer at hundreds of bees working together to make honey? Or learn about native Indiana birds, turtles, snakes and lizards? The Zion Nature Center is such a place, and it packs a lot of learning into a small space.
Established in 2002, the nature center’s mission is to encourage families and residents to take an active role in their native environment by providing educational activities and exhibits that spark curiosity. You can see evidence of this goal as soon as you step into the door, as you are greeted with a giant display that looks like a bisected tree trunk. It’s where my two little ones immediately ran over to, and how can you not – it looks like there is a literal tree in the room! Peer inside the display, and you can see box turtles inside. The exhibit, which is one of the newest in the center and was added in 2017, brings attention to the plight of box turtles, which are decreasing in numbers in Indiana and all around the country.
As you make your way around the nature center, you’ll see many different exhibits, hands-on activities, and information to read. In one room, microscopes are set up with slides containing pollen and spores to look at up close. In the same room, you can check out animal hides and different animal body parts. (We got to hold an actual deer leg and bird claw in our hands! Pretty neat!)
One room is all about bees and other pollinators. In this room, there is a real beehive behind glass, and you can see hundreds of busy bees buzzing around and working as a colony. My kids got a kick out of handling a wasp nest, as well as looking at specimen jars that contained butterflies, moths and other insects.
One of our favorite rooms was what we dubbed the “play room,” because this is where all the toys, puppets, books and stuffed animals were. My kids loved this area, and they played with all the animal figures and wooden blocks, drew on the chalk wall, made up plays with the hand puppets, and read some books about animals. It’s a very cozy, inviting area, and it’s perfect for all ages. There’s something for everyone to engage with!
The Zion Nature Center is situated behind Eagle Elementary School, and because of its location, it is open for very limited hours to ensure that visitors won’t disrupt the school day. We spent at least an hour at the nature center alone, and then we finished our visit with some time at the playground just outside of the center. Yes, there is a small playground adjacent to the nature center! A few steps away from the nature center and the playground is the Zion Nature Sanctuary, which has wooded areas to explore, a hiking trail and creeks. You really could spend a whole day here just learning and enjoying the best that Indiana has to offer.
More Info about Zion Nature Center:
Zion Nature Center is located at 690 Beech Street in Zionsville. It’s located on the grounds of Eagle Elementary School, so it is open during limited hours, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Occasionally, it is open on select weekdays during school breaks and during the summer. For more information, call (317) 873-8950 or visit www.zionsville-in.gov/270/Zion- Nature-Center
Nicole Sipe is a freelance writer and editor in Indianapolis. A Southern California native, she enjoys exploring Indy with her husband and two sons.