Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Little Red Schoolhouse
Nature Bulletin No. 424   September 10, 1971
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Daniel Ryan, President
Roberts Mann, Conservation Editor
David H. Thompson, Senior Naturalist

We have opened the doors of The Little Red Schoolhouse, our new nature center in the Palos forest preserves. You are invited to visit it and urged to use it. Many youth organizations, summer day camps, and teachers with their classes have already done so. It is now open every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. From late October until April it probably will be closed. The entrance is on 104th Ave. (Willow Springs Road), one mile west of U.S. 45 and a half-mile south of 95th St. There is ample parking space for buses.

The building, originally constructed at another location in 1886, served as a one-room rural school until a few years ago when it was abandoned and purchased by the Forest Preserve District. Now it has been moved to the brow of a hill south of and overlooking Longjohn Slough, remodeled, painted "barn red, " and converted into a unique nature center.

Inside the schoolhouse are many exhibits: a large aquarium containing the common kinds of native fish; smaller aquarium containing minnows, tadpoles, salamanders, crawfish and aquatic insects; terraria containing frogs, toads, turtles and small snakes; examples of the common wildflowers when in bloom; habitat exhibits loaned by the Illinois State Museum; and many others. There is always something new. A naturalist is on duty to answer questions, help you use the nature center, and start you off on the self-guiding nature trails.

There will be three principal trails from the schoolhouse and looping back to it, located so as to wind through the typical kinds of vegetation and landscape found in the Palos region, and interconnected so that walks of different lengths, with different things to see, may be selected. These trails are profusely labeled and the labels not only identify but also tell interesting facts about all of the soils, grasses, weeds, wildflowers, shrubs, trees and wildlife to be seen there. They enable a teacher and her class, without a naturalist, to become well acquainted with what they see.

One trail, now completed, skirts the south shore of Longjohn Slough -- a 35-acre shallow lake frequented by many kinds of waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds, especially during the migration periods in autumn and spring. There are concealed blinds where these birds may be watched and photographed. Then this trail crosses a wide opening where we are restoring a typical sample of the original Illinois prairies, with all the grasses, sedges and showy flowering plants that have become so rare. From there it winds through a wooded rolling upland area and back to the schoolhouse.

This fall, several other features will be completed at this nature center, such as outdoor pits for snakes and turtles, and a semicircular walk out over the water at the south end of the slough, but a teacher can spend a most interesting and profitable half-day there with her class. That is one purpose of The Little Red Schoolhouse. Reservations should be made by telephoning the Forest Preserve District, Conservation Department.

Announcement: The second Outdoor Education Workshop for Cook County teachers will be held at Camp Sagawau on October 12-13-14, sponsored by the committee appointed by Noble Puffer, county superintendent of schools, and the Forest Preserve District. One of the field trips will include a visit to The Little Red Schoolhouse.

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