Osbornedale: Both nature and art in Derby

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” Albert Einstein said.

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Diane Joy, director of the Kellogg Environmental Center, would find truth in Einstein’s words. In fact, she and the staff at the Kellogg Environmental Center specialize in teaching classes about nature and the environment.

“We teach workshops, school programs and field studies,” Joy said. “We teach everything related to the environment.”

The Kellogg Environmental Center and the Osborne Homestead Museum and Gardens are at 500 Hawthorne Avenue, Derby, properties of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, comprising Osbornedale State Park. The park is in the Naugatuck Valley hills, just east of the Housatonic River.

The DEEP describes the Kellogg Center as a beacon of learning and activities surrounding the environment, while the homestead honors Frances Osborne, a woman before her time.

Projects Wild, Learning Tree, Wet

Joy said the center offers a variety of curricula for parents’ and teachers’ use.  Some of the topics taught at the environmental center are Project Wild, Project Learning Tree, and Project Wet, combining environmental and conservation education programs.

Project Wild is a nationally distributed environmental program that uses wildlife for teaching, focusing on why habitats are important. The program is available for grades Pre-K to grade 12.

Project Learning Tree uses the forest as a window into the world, said Joy. Participants learn about tree identification, recycling, and energy.

Project Wet aims to engage children, parents, teachers and community members to empower community action to solve complex water issues.

“We are confident we have a good product with natural environmental programs,” Joy said. “We will put on a five- or six-hour workshop and show teachers how to use the materials and how to incorporate it into the classroom.”

Joy said the Kellogg Environmental Center will go to a school or teachers can visit the center. She said she likes when teachers come to the center first for the workshops and then later bring their students. She said teachers get a better sense on how to use the environmental education materials correctly, and they can bring it back to the classroom.

Hiking trails and gardens

Along with the classroom experience, visitors to the center can participate in a variety of activities. There are 400 acres with hiking trails, designated with four levels of difficulty and length.

The trails are lovely and contain of variety of birds to view, Joy said. There is also a bird blind on the trail so that hikers can look out at the birds without disturbing them.

After hiking, visitors will often visit the gardens. There are annuals, perennials and a special butterfly garden behind the environmental center that is filled with different plants that attract butterflies.

Local artists

Inside the environmental center, visitors will find a rotating display of art featuring local artists.  This month, the center is featuring the paintings of Barbara Rasa, who creates paintings of birds and wildflowers.

While parents or caretakers are looking at the paintings, there is a turtle pond nearby for children to explore too.

Osborne Homestead Museum

Visitors may also visit the Osborne Homestead Museum and Gardens, which the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection describes as a museum that celebrates the life of Frances Osborne Kellogg, an accomplished businesswoman and conservationist.

Frances Osborne was the daughter of a wealthy landowner, who inherited her father’s business. She started the Osbornedale dairy farm in Derby with her husband Waldo Stewart Kellogg, and they raised prize-winning Holstein-Friesian dairy cows.

Following the death of her husband in 1928, she devoted herself to business and civic activities and became president of Union Fabric Company, vice president of Connecticut Clasp, and treasurer of the F. Kelly Company.

Before her death she deeded her 350-acre property to the State of Connecticut for a state park. Visitors to Osbornedale State Park can now hike, picnic, ice skate, and enjoy pond fishing, among other recreational activities.

Holiday flair

The holidays are especially nice at the Osborned Homestead, Joy said. The Colonial Revival building is decorated by 10 different local garden clubs from just after Thanksgiving until a week before Christmas. Each year the garden clubs pick a new theme; in 2015, it will be Connecticut Grown Agriculture.

The Kellogg Environmental Center is open 9 to 4:30 Tuesday through Saturday. The Osborne Homestead Museum and Gardens are open Thursday and Friday, 10 to 3, Saturday, 10 to 4, and Sunday, noon to 4.

The environmental center and the museum may be reached at 203-734-2513. There’s more information about both at ct.gov/deep/osbornedale.

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