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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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More space, new exhibits for Quarry Hill

More space, new exhibits for Quarry Hill

At Quarry Hill, plans are beginning to blossom on a multi-million dollar project that park leaders say will help expand programming and educational opportunities for its more than 100,000 annual visitors.

"This is going to be transformational," said Lori Forstie, the public relations and outreach coordinator for Quarry Hill Nature Center.

Come this spring, visitors to the nature center — to be renamed Exploration  Hall — will find a redesigned building featuring enhanced exhibits, such as an "investigation station" with state-of-the-art microscopes and a new 1,500-gallon freshwater aquarium with a crawl-through tunnel.

Rendering of the new Exploration Hall

Rendering of the new Exploration Hall

The ultimate goal, said Forstie, is to provide the tools and programming for young learners  — 28,000 students visit the Quarry Hill Nature Center each year as part of a partnership with Rochester Public Schools — to investigate and interact with the natural world that surrounds them.

"We’re bringing our exhibits and interactive tools up to the level where science and technology is today," she added. (The nature center will be closed to the public Feb. 26 to April 15 while renovations take place.)

The upgrades to the park, which also include construction of a new Prairie House, are part of a $2.6 million effort to increase the capacity and scope of natural science educational programming at Quarry Hill. 

The Prairie House, located a stone's throw way from the nature center, will be used as an experiential classroom for summer camps and groups. The building uses green technologies, such as solar electrical generation and water reclamation, to reduce its impact on the natural environment.

Inside the recently-completed Prairie House

Inside the recently-completed Prairie House

“This will provide a truly immersive experience," said Forstie. "I describe the natural world as the theater of seasons, and the Prairie House will provide the best seat in the house for us to observe and engage in natural science education, and spark the curiosity and inquiry in young people.”

In addition to $1.6 million in state funding, the park has been able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from the community through a capital campaign, which is now about 10 percent away from its goal. Forstie called the public response to the project "almost overwhelming."

You can learn more about this project by visiting Quarry Hill's website.

Cover photo: Prairie House Education Building / Med City Beat

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