To me, the best reasons to visit the New Canaan New Center are Glory and Socrates.
Then again, if you’re a parent, or one of the 10,000 students a year who come, you might prefer the terrain’s peace and quiet, rolling down “Silly Hill,” learning about planting, growth, tracking, and running around the expansive 40 acres—or maybe even studying the environs for an AP Bio class.
This luxurious, lively natural retreat, a short walk from New Canaan’s town center, has two ponds, a small apple orchard, a meadow, goats, sugar shack, greenhouse, reflecting pools, and trails you can lose yourself in. You can walk there whenever you like, free of charge, and birdwatch, walk your dog, put the chickens to bed (literally), or climb the gazebo and gaze out upon fall leaves, snow-sprinkled trees, austerely bare branches and grasslands (or visit the Winter Wonderland, when Santa sleds through, in a few weeks). Last month, an Oktoberfest brought adults in by the droves, with much merrymaking.
The grounds’ location, near New Canaan and New York State, is a major draw, according to Boardie Kurtz, the NCNC’s director of marketing and development.
“This makes us unique,” she says. “It’s NOT your typical nature center. And we’re a half-mile from town: You can drive or walk down, dawn to dusk, and you don’t have to check in. You just can walk around.”
That brings us back to Glory and Socrates—two resident birds of prey. Glory is a (flightless) bald eagle; Socrates is a great horned owl (there’s also a turkey vulture, a peregrine falcon, a hawk and another, more bashful, owl who tends to stare at you without moving).
Glory was born unable to raise her wings, but when taken from her cage, still thinks she can.
“Our trainer, when he brings her around the grounds,” continues Kurz, “says that she will forever try and fly, even though she can’t.”
Looking at Glory, you can tell why children love it there, but also, everyone should also know that the center’s pre-school programs, taught in the Salamander Room, are historic.
“We have the oldest nature-based preschool curriculum in the country,” Kurz continues. “And our preschool data show they (the kids) are coming here to engage.”
That is something she and Laura Heckman, the New Canaan Nature Center’s Executive Director, are very proud of. It also insures that, depending on which time of day you come, you could see—and hear—children rolling down Silly Hill, and trying to count the small fish in a pool—to see what jumps—and following frogs. Or you might sit in front of a quiet pool and hear water and birds in the quiet air. Then again, there’s such an array of programs at the Center…well, just stop in.
So, while I think I’ll be coming back to see if I can get Socrates to respond to my questions, Kurz has a much more simple answer as to what people will be doing when visiting.
“People come for everything,” she says.
New Canaan Nature Center, New Canaan
144 Oenoke Ridge; (203) 966-9577