Bayport-Blue Point Public Library’s future home at the former St. Ursula Center in Blue Point will include an outdoor learning center, thanks to a $350,000 state grant.

The interactive Nature Explorium provides an attractive space for children and their families to have contact with nature and participate in active programs that will build their appreciation for the environment, a library spokesman said.

Ronald F. Devine, Jr., president of library’s board of trustees, expressed gratitude to former state Sen. Monica Martinez for her work in securing the grant, which will also fund landscaping at the new facility on Middle Road. The library’s construction is expected to be complete this fall.

“The Nature Explorium will play a valuable role in helping our community’s children develop their appreciation of nature,” he said.

Plans for the Nature Explorium are still developing, but similar sites offer self-directed and group educational programs for preschool through upper elementary school-aged children and their parents or caregivers.

The Nature Explorium concept was developed by the Nebraska-based Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids, a project of The Early Years Institute in Port Washington. 

“These spaces inspire hands-on activity, creativity, play, and time to explore the natural world for children of all ages,” said Heather Fox, director of communications and outreach for the Nature Explore Program, a division of the Dimensions Foundation. “They offer interactive elements that allow young people to use their creativity, imaginations, and initiative.”

Across the country, there are about 450 Nature Explore-certified programs in libraries, schools, parks and other venues. Of the 18 in New York state, 10 are on Long Island. Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, in 2010, was the first library in the country to open such a facility.

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