Margaret Noecker Nature Center

Parish School students nature walk
Parish School Grasslands
The Parish School Leaf Rubbing
Parish School Water Garden

Where Children Learn and Explore in Nature

Margaret Noecker Nature Center on The Parish School campus is an integrated, nature-based learning environment that facilitates children’s intellectual, social and emotional development through direct engagement with the natural environment.

The Nature Center, with long-range plans that take advantage of The Parish School’s 17-acre natural landscape, is our commitment to fully integrating nature-based learning into Parish life. Over the next few years, the Nature Center will grow to be a dedicated, campus-wide domain that touches every activity and educational program at our school.

Why is a natural learning environment important?

Children blossom when they’re exposed to hands-on learning and self-guided play in a tactile, stimulating setting. This concept is at the core of the Nature Center's design. Over the next few years, the Nature Center will transform our campus into an outdoor environment that supports our students’ social and intellectual development, creativity and confidence by giving them the gift of nature.

Settings to encourage nature-based learning:

• Outdoor Science Lab
• Weather Station
• Exploration Trails
• Mud Kitchen and Messy Play Area
• Contemplation and Sensory Garden
• Fruit and Vegetable Gardens
• Produce Market
• Ornamental Grass Maze
• Woodland Preserve

The beautiful, well-planned facility is a resource for the larger community as well, with comfortable gathering and event spaces that accommodate activities and meetings for parents and families, homeschooled children, occupational and play therapists, speech-language professionals, educators and community groups.

Margaret Noecker Nature Center is Expanding

Phase 1: Little Acorn Park

Phase One of the project, an outdoor classroom for young children named Little Acorn Park, opened for learning and play at the start of the 2018-19 school year. See photos of Little Acorn Park below.

Phase 2: Oak Creek Exploration Zone

Partnering again with our landscape architects at TBG Inc., this beautiful patch of campus was turned into an outdoor learning environment for our 4- to 6-year-olds that will expand their skills and imaginations. Included, among other wonders, colorful swing pods, mill house and water pump, a meandering creek with bridges, an area for planting and growing vegetables, a hill with a slide, a quiet craft shack nestled in a forest of trees, and shaded gathering spot for loose parts play, reading and sharing thoughts. And we’ve made sure to plot plenty of space for dirt-digging and mud pie-making—always the most favored activities. See photos of the Oak Creek Exploration Zone below.

Phase 3: Margaret's Nature Hub

Initial work has also begun on the centerpiece of the Nature Center, called Margaret’s Nature Hub, in memory of Margaret Noecker, former Head of School, who inspired all of us at The Parish School with her love of nature and her belief that a child’s delight in nature animates learning and development.

We invite you to learn more about what’s planned for the future in our Design Program and Conceptual Master Plan (PDF). 

Contact Us

Terri Garth
Margaret Noecker Nature Center Chair
713.467.4696 x. 1144