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Is an environmental education "center" a building, or is it the lands on which the building sits? Truly, it's some of each. The destination is the outdoors, but the gateway--where we are introduced to the features we may encounter while we're on the trail, and where we find knowledgeable staff who can answer our questions--is the building.

This summer, the new visitor center building at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar (Albany County) was opened to the public. With large windows welcoming natural light, you may be indoors briefly, but it's not long before you're drawn outdoors, into the natural world. If the structure has fulfilled its purpose, you've already learned a little about what you may encounter before you step outdoors. And now you'll have the opportunity to see and explore it firsthand.

Caption: We learn from and are inspired by our past. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Delmar Experimental Game Farm are a big part of Five Rivers' history, and are highlighted in the historic timeline in the visitor center. Artifacts and stories from Five Rivers' past bring history to life.

Caption: Snow adds to winter fun. Snowshoeing programs at Five Rivers introduce visitors of all ages to this classic winter sport.

Caption: Visitors are invited to look, listen, touch and smell as they learn about the habitats, history, and wildlife of Five Rivers.

Caption: Celebrating our past while we look to the future: Ray Perry (center), Director at Five Rivers, stands with former directors Alan Mapes (left) and Craig Thompson (right) in front of the new visitor center.

Caption: More than 225 birds are among the species found at Five Rivers since record-keeping began in the early 1970s. Early morning bird walks in May and September provide opportunities to monitor migration. Participation in the annual New Year's Day Bird Count and the Backyard Bird Count in February encourages citizen science.

Caption: The new building showcases numerous "green" building techniques, such as using locally harvested trees for the support columns, and is slated for LEED certification, recognizing its sustainability achievement. In addition, the green roof improves the building's energy efficiency, providing insulation and contributing to stormwater management. It also provides a home to nesting birds, and is a source of nectar and pollen for the center's resident honey bees, as well as native pollinators.

Caption: Visitors enjoy a number of interactive displays.

Caption: Healthy forests aren't just for exploration--sometimes they're delicious! Maple syrup programs take place each March at Five Rivers. Taking part has become an annual tradition for Capital Region schools and families.

Caption: One of the highlights of the new visitor center is a favorite feature retained from the old building: a custom-painted mural of Beaver Pond, by the late Wayne Trimm. Details emerge for those who take the time to look closely. True aficionados may find all of the 120+ birds, mammals, insects, plants, etc. incorporated into the mural.

Gina Jack: Educator & Environmental Enthusiast

Gina Jack, an environmental educator at DEC's Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, knows there are many ways to teach people about the environment. She believes handson outdoor experiences are important for all ages, and that they provide an excellent complement to classroom studies for school-aged children. Gina helps children and adults understand, experience and enjoy the wonders of nature through programs and exhibits at Five Rivers, where she notes "there's always something interesting to see."

Gina's interest in conservation education and environmental education began in high school when she was a summer camp counselor. As a Recreation major at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, she benefitted from internships at a variety of outdoor education programs, including a summer spent as an intern interpreter in Yosemite National Park.

In 2007, Gina was hired as the first editor for DEC's Conservationist for Kids magazine, where she shared her enthusiasm for the outdoors with young readers. She moved to Five Rivers in 2013. She loves to watch the excitement of children as they enter the new Visitor Center. "They walk in the door and their eyes pop, and they say 'wow.' I love that 'wow' factor, what Rachel Carson referred to as a sense of wonder." Gina hopes what visitors see and learn at Five Rivers will further boost their environmental interest and stewardship.

Gina lives in Glenmont with her husband, Kevin, and daughters Jennifer and Lauren. They love exploring New York State's hidden corners together, from Manhattan to Malone and Buffalo to Ballston Spa. That outdoor spirit is evident at Five Rivers, where she helps people to discover and enjoy nature.

If you go ...

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center 56 Game Farm Road, Delmar, NY 12054 (Albany County)

Phone 518-475-0291 Email

Online program calendar

New Year's Day Bird Count--January 1, 2018

Great Backyard Bird Count--February 16-19, 2018

Maple Sugar Open Houses--March 10, 17 and 24, 2018 from 1:30 to 3:30 PM

By Gina Jack DEC photos
COPYRIGHT 2017 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Jack, Gina
Publication:New York State Conservationist
Date:Dec 1, 2017
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