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McCollum Statement Recognizing the Thomas Irving Dodge Nature Center

February 10, 2017
Statements For the Record

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the volunteers, staff, visitors and supporters of the Thomas Irvine Dodge Nature Center in West Saint Paul, Minnesota on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the center. Founded in 1967 by Olivia Irvine Dodge, the center has served as a pioneering venue for environmental education and a premier outdoor classroom for generations of Minnesota students.

Dodge Nature Center is a rare jewel, located on 460 acres of land minutes from downtown Saint Paul, where visitors can hike for miles through prairies, hardwood forests, lakes, wetlands, and visit a working farm, orchard and bee apiary. The various biomes and landscapes provide an ever changing classroom for which to learn about the natural environment of Minnesota.

Olivia Irvine Dodge was a true trail blazer in environmental education, and the core mission of Dodge Nature Center is teaching children about the inherent beauty and complexity of the natural world around us. Throughout the past five decades, environmental educators at the center have developed an expansive environmental curriculum that has introduced hundreds of thousands of students from the Twin Cities to the science of the great outdoors. Because of the vision of Olivia Irvine Dodge and the center board and staff, children and adults alike learn how to care for and appreciate the incredible splendor of Minnesota's natural surroundings.

Growing up in neighboring South Saint Paul, I was fortunate to have many opportunities to visit and learn at Dodge Nature Center both as a child and as a young adult. Leading groups of children through the nature center to learn about the plants and animals around us was a highlight of my summers as a YMCA camp counselor. Then as it is now, the Dodge Nature Center is an integral part of our community that allows children and adults alike to connect with nature, and enables them to learn about science and conservation. Today, opportunities to visit Dodge remain special events for me. Whatever the season, I look forward to walking trails to experience nature right in the backyard of Minnesota's capital city.

On February 9th, Dodge Nature Center staff, volunteers, friends, family and supporters will gather to celebrate five decades of the center's mission to connect people to nature through education. In honoring this occasion, it is particularly fitting that Richard Louv will headline the gathering. As a world renowned author and environmental educator, Mr. Louv literally wrote the book about how to counter nature-deficit disorder and reconnect children and their families with the natural world. His work has sparked an international movement for the great outdoors that builds on the foundation forged by Olivia Irvine Dodge.

Mr. Speaker, please join me in rising to recognize the 50th Anniversary of Dodge Nature Center, and commend the passion and dedication of so many volunteers, staff and board members for providing exceptional environmental education for today's youth and for future generations of Minnesotans.