Growing A Nature Center Network

50 Stories for 50 Years

is presented by New Leader Manufacturing

Nationally, the Nature Center movement gained tremendous momentum in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Countless day-use nature centers (like ICNC) and residential environmental learning centers were created, often by passionate founders who were committed to the cause of environmental education, many of whom had science, resource management, or biology backgrounds.

As the field expanded, these directors and founders sought each other out and began to have conversations where they shared their ideas, experiences, and hard-won professional wisdom. These conversations created the foundation for what is known today as the Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA).

Founded in 1995, ANCA is described as a professional association dedicated to leaders in the nature and environmental learning center profession.

Rich Patterson, ICNC’s second director, was one of the founders of ANCA. He states, “Prior to computers and ANCA it was difficult and expensive for the relatively few nature centers to learn from each other. Edison Electric provided a grant to 13 nature center professionals so they could meet in New York several times in 1988 and 1989. They formed ANCA with the purpose of helping connect nature centers in ways that would facilitate communication and improve professionalism. This, combined with emerging computer technology that enabled professionals to communicate at low cost, has had a profound positive impact on nature centers worldwide.”

ANCA provides resources and support for leaders and managers to remain connected, grow their skills, and focus on best practices. Among others, these include a mentor program, annual Summit (a week-long gathering of leaders hosted by Centers around the United States), and Peer Consult services.

The Nature Center was a direct beneficiary of the Peer Consult program with a team of volunteer Nature Center directors who visited Cedar Rapids in 2009 to review and provide input on ICNC’s next steps. This consult led to the successful leadership transition between Rich Patterson and John Myers, as well as set the foundation for envisioning a new facility, enhanced programs, and nature center expansion.  

Indian Creek Nature Center continues its commitment to supporting Nature Centers nationally by John’s participation in other consults. John regularly leads consult teams at Centers throughout the United States who benefit from ICNC and John’s deep leadership experience.

John currently serves on the national leadership team for ANCA as a board member and Treasurer. He volunteers his time leading the profession into the future, ensuring the appropriate resources are available, and building the environmental learning and conservation profession nationally.

ICNC is also unique in that it is the only center in the ANCA network whose leaders have received both of ANCA’s most prestigious leadership awards. Rich Patterson was honored for his decades of leadership with the Nature Center Leadership Award in 2007 and John Myers received the Outstanding New Leader Award in 2016 for his work in leading the creation of Amazing Space.

ANCA has been an excellent resource for the entire nature center community and Indian Creek Nature Center has benefited significantly from its work. Find out more about ANCA, by visiting

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