Art work by Sue Seeger chosen for Childhood Nature Explore classroom

Sue Seeger shows the frame of one of the deer she’s constructed that will greet visitors to the center. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


The ISD 728 Early Childhood Outdoor Nature Explore Classroom, located at The Handke Center, hosted a public Artists Reception on June 6 to unveil designs for their entrance gateway and plaza. Over 100 persons attended and viewed designs.

The project, funded in part by Central Minnesota Arts Board, ECFE Advisory Council and other contributors, is using public art to create a unique and inviting entryway and plaza to the Early Childhood Nature Explore Classroom.

The “skin” of the deer will be little animal shapes like these.

“Currently, the Nature Explore Classroom is not easily identifiable.  Our committee wants an artistic entrance that encourages the public, especially children, to interact with nature while using and enjoying the art work,” said Julia Nielsen, marketing coordinator for the district.

Last December, the ECFE issued a call to professional artists, artisans, architects, landscape architects or a team thereof, capable of designing the public art piece. Numerous proposals were submitted and three finalists were selected to submit designs.

Elk River sculptor Sue Seeger’s design — an entry arch with two cranes, and five deer bounding toward the entry — was unanimously selected. Others competing were Chris Tulley and Greg Ingraham from Hoisington Koegler Group Inc.

This is a model of the arch that will be at the entrance.

The next phase is to continue fundraising efforts to build the entrance plaza and gateway. Anyone who would like to contribute should contact Charlie Blesener, director of community engagement at 763-241-3522. Anticipated project completion is fall 2013.

The ECFE Nature Explore Classroom at the Handke Center is a joint effort of ISD 728 Community Education and a grant from the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. It is one of only three Nature Explore classrooms in the state of Minnesota.

The focus  is to create effective spaces that support children (and adult) interactions with the natural world and provide alternatives to computer, TV, and video environments.