PRESS RELEASE: Fenner acquires second site, begins preschool remodel

Sycamore Creek Driving Range, renovated with Dart Foundation Grant will house new Fenner Nature Preschool

LANSING, Mich. – Fenner Conservancy announced Friday that the nonprofit is expanding and will now include the 53-acre Sycamore Creek Driving Range. With a $47,000 grant from the Dart Foundation, the site’s former pro shop is under renovation to serve as the new Fenner Nature Preschool’s indoor space.

The newly named Dart Foundation Discovery Classroom will provide the primary indoor educational space. The grounds closest to the building will function as the outdoor learning environment. However, the long-term usage of the remaining acreage is still under discussion with the nonprofit.

“Fenner Conservancy’s mission is to connect people to nature in the heart of Lansing through conservation, education and stewardship. Sycamore Creek opens up new avenues to provide points of access, education and connection to the public we serve,” executive director Liz Roxberry said at the nonprofit’s annual meeting Friday. “One of those new avenues is the Fenner Nature Preschool, which provides a unique opportunity to begin forming those connections early in our students’ lives.

“Both the Dart Foundation Discovery Classroom and Sycamore Creek’s outdoor spaces will provoke intellectual, physical, social and emotional learning opportunities, while developing an appreciation and comfort level for nature that will last lifetimes.”

Following First Tee of Mid-Michigan’s relocation, the Sycamore Creek site became available, and Fenner Conservancy’s site proposal was selected by the City of Lansing though its Request For Proposals process.

“Originally, the Fenner Nature Preschool was going to be housed in Fenner’s Visitor Center basement. However, the basement space presented several challenges that would have made the required renovations inaccessibly expensive,” Roxberry said. “When we were notified Sycamore Creek was coming available and walked through the pro shop, my first thought was ‘it’s like this building was made to be a preschool.’”

With fewer structural renovations needed, Fenner is able to put the Dart Foundation’s grant towards upgrades and furnishings.

“The Dart Foundation is pleased to be a key financial contributor to this flagship project,” said Emily L. Matthews, Dart Foundation Executive Director. “There is a definite 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.”

The Fenner Nature Preschool will serve early learners ages three to five. With a teacher to student ratio of 1:10, the program will make use of child-directed learning in both indoor and outdoor settings, with a provocation-based curriculum inspired by Reggio Emilia.

“The Fenner Nature Preschool’s guiding philosophy is that children learn best in an environment that fosters creativity, independence and a sense of connection to the natural world,” Roxberry said. “Child-led learning and the Reggio Emilia approach allow children to develop a sense of empowered responsibility for their education and their environment, building curiosity, confidence and connection to nature through exploration.”

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

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.