Pre-school and elementary school children in Auburn, Neb., now have access to a 7,000-sq.ft. interactive learning garden that offers opportunity for both play and education. The new Ariens Company Nature Explore Classroom opened to the public on April 28, 2015, following a grand opening ceremony hosted by Ariens Company and CEO Dan Ariens. The garden is divided into designated learning centers that include a rain garden, nature art area, building area, and climbing & crawling area.
Although Ariens Company is the main sponsor for the outdoor classroom, the project also received grants from the Nemaha Natural Resources District and the City of Auburn.
"We're happy that we could help this community bring its vision to life," says Dan Ariens, Chairman and CEO. "This project has grown from the true grassroots effort of a few dedicated residents to a community-wide effort.
"This is the right project for us. It's in nature, it's outdoors, and we're in the outdoor power equipment space, so we thought providing financial support for this was a great fit."
Auburn residents Deb Reiman and Kim Beger were the driving force behind the effort which began in 2010.
"It's something different that we don't have in the community," said Little Learners Teacher Deb Reiman. "I know as a preschool teacher that kids don't spend a lot of time outside, especially in nature. This gives them a great outlet to be able to do that."
More than 60 organizations and individuals have contributed funds or donated in-kind services to complete the project, including Ariens Company employees who helped prepare the site and build and install many of the features.
The garden will be submitted for certification as a Nature Explore classroom by the Arbor Day Foundation based in Nebraska City, Neb. The design of the garden is based on guidelines from the program.
The garden is located near Calvert Elementary School for teachers to easily incorporate related curriculum. Auburn employees will also assist with on-going projects and activities related to the garden. Ariens Company employs 230 people at a plant located in Auburn.