Early 2018 brought the last checkmarks to our Education and Camp Barn punch list. With the building completed, we installed two garden beds, a tree border, bird feeders, and an accessible walkway. Inside, staff artists painted animal tracks on the floor and scat examples on the restroom walls. Child artists contributed to a nature peace pole that welcomes visitors in four languages. During our 54th Fern and Feather nature camp season almost 400 campers, (4-16) and ten young adults (16-25) participated in camp activities. Seventeen families were supported with scholarship funds that allowed 24 kids to attend our camp. This inspiring video captures the spirit of camp. Our Education team has been making great progress to launch our new Fern and Feather Preschool and state licensure paperwork was submitted to the Office of Early Education and Care in December 2018. In the New Year, the 42 families on our waitlist and the community will be invited to open houses, and registrations will begin this spring ahead of our school opening in September 2019. Our website has more information about our Nature Preschool. The Education and Camp Barn has also been a gathering place to develop and strengthen our partnerships. Event and educational collaborations included a MV Donor’s Collaborative training, an Art Show and Benefit with Old Sculpin Gallery, school vacation week programs for kids, concerts, volunteer events and a Climate Education training with 31 professionals from 20 organizations.
It was a historic year for Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. Early 2017 brought the end of a very quick and successful fundraising campaign and the construction of the Sanctuary’s first new building in fifty years. The Education and Camp Barn was built in record-breaking speed by Autumn Construction with the assistance of an Amish post and beam construction team. After obtaining permits, the Barn shell was raised in just over two months to accommodate Felix Neck’s Fern and Feather Day Camp which had doubled its participation over the last few years and was bursting at the seams in the existing Nature Center. A very successful 2017 summer camp season served 425 children (aged 4-16) and youth (aged 17-25) who were able to use the insulated barn shell. Contractors began phase 2 (restrooms, electric, heat, etc.) in October. Restrooms are now functional, electricity, heat and lighting are complete, and the last few punch list items were completed by December. The Education and Camp Barn served as a gathering place this past fall for two community events that welcomed over one thousand people. Once final permits are received, planning the space, furnishing the building, and landscaping the area will commence. Two grants totaling $6,500 were received for these purposes and fundraising is ongoing for our future nature-based preschool startup costs, which include staff, educational materials, office and safety equipment, etc. A community survey was developed and distributed to island families and Felix Neck staff have spoken with other Island preschools to identify existing services and needs. Ten families have already expressed interest in our nature based preschool and we have begun to explore the licensing process for the program.