PRESS RELEASE: Fenner Conservancy cut ribbon on Fenner Nature Preschool

Preschool site, its Dart Foundation Discovery Classroom officially open, will house nature-based preschool program

LANSING, Mich. – Fenner Conservancy cut the ribbon June 29 on the new Fenner Nature Preschool site and its Dart Foundation Discovery Classroom. The preschool program will be housed at Sycamore Creek, which Fenner Conservancy assumed management of in November. Sycamore Creek’s former golf pro shop has been renovated with a $47,000 grant from the Dart Foundation to serve as the preschool’s indoor space.

Partners on the project, including Dart Foundation executive director Emily Matthews and City of Lansing Mayor Andy Schor joined Fenner Conservancy executive director Liz Roxberry, preschool director Abigail Matthiesen, and board president Jessica Fowler outside the classroom to ceremonially open the renovated space.

Fowler said the Lansing Nature Preschool will offer children ages three through five a learning experience that blends Reggio Emilia and child-directed learning philosophies with nature-based immersive learning on Sycamore Creek’s 53 acres.

“It is here that early learners will experience whole child development,” Fowler said, “building curiosity, confidence and connection to nature through exploration.”

During the ceremony, Matthews said the Dart Family believes in giving people the tools needed to succeed in life from a young age, and the Dart Foundation has supported education since its inception in 1984. 

Their $47,000 grant for the preschool renovation was awarded to Fenner in June 2019. At that time, the plan was to remodel the Visitor Center’s basement at Fenner Nature Center to serve as the indoor classroom space. Delays due to the pandemic and rising construction costs became obstacles to the project, but when Fenner Conservancy’s site proposal for Sycamore Creek was selected by the City of Lansing, Dart Foundation and Fenner Conservancy agreed to move the project to the new location.

“There is such a need for high-quality preschool programs in the Mid-Michigan area, and this classroom is designed to maximize educational opportunities for these early learners, while exposing them to nature and the great outdoors,” Matthews said. “Preschool is a place where a child’s worlds opens up, and what better place than a nature preschool, where they have the opportunity to touch, to feel, and to learn through their senses.”

Roxberry concluded the ceremony thanking the Dart Foundation and the City of Lansing. 

“It is through these relationships that we continue to move Lansing forward together.”

Fenner Nature Preschool is expected to open this fall. To be notified of Fenner Nature Preschool developments, including open houses and open enrollment, email to be placed on the contact list.

About Dart Foundation: The Dart Foundation is a private family foundation established by Dart Container Corporation founder William A. Dart and his wife Claire T. Dart in 1984. The Dart Foundation supports organizations and projects that improve the quality of life in the communities we serve. The Dart Foundation has granted over $90 million to charitable endeavors since inception.

About Fenner Conservancy: Fenner Conservancy, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and managing body for Fenner Nature Center, connects people to nature in the heart of Lansing through conservation, education, and stewardship. 

About Fenner Nature Preschool: The Fenner Nature Preschool will open as a State of Michigan licensed, nature-based preschool program managed by Fenner Conservancy. The program makes use of child-directed learning in both indoor and outdoor settings with a provocation-based curriculum inspired by Reggio Emilia.