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Challenge Yourself! Explore Something New in the Great Outdoors

Interested in challenging yourself and learning a new skill as you explore the great outdoors? Then I have a gem of a place to share with you. Rockwood Nature Center, the only Nature Center operated by Chesterfield County Parks & Recreation, is nestled in the forest of Rockwood Park and is a great place for young and old to make new discoveries. Within the park of 161 acres, you’ll find 5.5 miles of hiking trails, various sports facilities, an arboretum, an archery range and Rockwood Nature CenterWatch this Science Matters video for a “sneak peek” into the Nature Center and what’s happening on the archery range.

Rockwood Nature Center is in a cozy log-cabin that is home to numerous native Virginia Snakes, snapping and painted turtles, frogs, and displays of birds and animals. “One of the things visitors are the most surprised about when they come into the Nature Center is that we take the snakes out. Once the kids have a chance to touch and interact with the snakes- they find out that snakes might not be as bad as they imagined,” shares Robert Smet, the Director of the Nature Center.

The day I was there, Smet introduced me to two beautiful corn snakes and "Butters" a lovely buttery colored bearded dragon that he takes to schools for educational programs. Mr. Smet believes that “the highest value that a nature center can give to children is the opportunity to get outside and learn about the natural world.” He emphasizes the effect that learning about and exploring nature first-hand has on young people. Children begin to love and care for the things they know and understand.

When you visit the Nature Center, you can hike the trails of Rockwood Park and check out the forest, the pond, some wetlands and Falling Creek. You should also take advantage of their extensive Outdoor Programs and try your hand at something new.  

Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation has been offering Outdoor Programs for over 30 years. From land to water activities – they have them all. Want to stay on dry land? Check out their climbing, backpacking, hiking and archery programs. Want to spend some time out on the water? Join a whitewater or touring kayak trip or try your hand at rafting and canoeing. Check out their full list of programs and activities.

The day I visited the Nature Center I enjoyed observing a private archery lesson. Archery is one of the most popular programs at the Center and is geared for ages 8 and up. They offer a variety of lessons including private and group lessons, summer camps, birthday parties and you can even sign-up on certain Sundays for informal archery sessions. These classes focus on “safety, the fundamentals of form and stance, understanding the equipment, and shooting skills,” explains Smet.

Two good friends, Maddie (5th grader) and Campbell (6th grader), were having an archery lesson and talked with me about why they enjoy being active and being outside. “I love being active,” Maddie explained. “I like being outdoors because you get to explore new things. Campbell and I like to climb trees and go kayaking and fishing.” For Maddie, being active and being outside with friends is what it’s all about. And what about bragging rights? Campbell explains that “the most fun part of archery is when you get a really good bull’s eye. Its fun to brag.” “And celebrate,” adds Maddie.

So if you want to have fun in the great outdoors and earn bragging rights, check out all of the programs at Rockwood Park and Rockwood Nature Center. And join the folks from Chesterfield Parks & Recreation at our FREE Explore the Outdoors Event on Sunday, April 28th from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Huguenot Park.

Article by Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager

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