As visitors walk downstairs to the lower level of the Nature Center, they can explore displays representing three major habitats at Jester Park: wetlands, prairie, and woodlands. These displays help visitors identify plant and animal species in the park, discover relationships and connections between different species in the ecosystem.
Lithic & Historic Artifact Exhibit (Coming in 2022)
This exhibit will educate visitors about the history of Iowa’s indigenous people and is anticipated to open to the public in the spring of 2022. Over the past 30 years, three private collections of artifacts have been donated to Polk County Conservation. All of the artifacts originated from S.E. Polk County and represent over 12,000 years of human inhabitance of this area.
Explore either side of a freestanding display that depicts a wetland habitat. Visitors can scoop up aquatic animals and look through a microscope to understand the importance of wetlands and good water quality. Along the critter wall, visitors can enjoy the large aquariums with live turtles and fish.
Discover what lies beneath the sea of grass and flowers. Young visitors can crawl through a root-filled space to discover a variety of animals living underground like a fox and her pups or a pocket gopher. Above ground they can search for a three-dimensional ornate box turtle and bull snake along with real bison and elk fur. Visitors can lift interpretive panels "buried" in the ground form and discover creatures in their underground burrows.
This exhibit depicts a forest floor, with sculpted mushrooms. Visitors can become nature detectives, using clues like animal tracks or scat to see if they can identify what creatures have been in the forest. Visitors can crawl thru the sculpted log to explore the "basement" of the woodland habitat revealing the secret relationship between plant, animals and the soil that supports them.
A large magnetic Habitat wall allows visitors to engage in free form play. Visitors will be free to make their own meaningful connections to the animals and plants found in Iowa while "playing" with magnets.
Investigate natural items left by our naturalists or park visitors to discover and identify. A puppet theater allows free play for the young visitor. There is also space for reading books and playing with games. The Naturalist Nook is sponsored by the LaMair family [Pictured: Jane LaMair's Grandchildren] in honor of Jane LaMair.
Interpretive exhibits sponsored by:
W.T. and Edna M. Dahl Trust & Blank's Children Hospital