Nature’s Classroom for 50 years: Lowry Nature Center’s Oldest Tradition

By: Brianna Rodgers

March 18, 2019

Category: History

When you hear the word “tradition,” it can evoke a multitude of feelings and emotions. A few positive examples include belonging, comfort, laughter, expectancy, happiness, and purpose. Taste can trigger memories of eating caramel apples when visiting an apple orchard every year as a child; smells from a crackling fire may stoke memories of a yearly camping trip with friends.

Traditions often run deep and represent a critical piece of culture, structure, and foundation in society. They remind us of our history, define our past and can give purpose to who we are. 

The word comes from the Latin verb tradere meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. Most traditions across cultures are kept alive through language and storytelling passed on from one generation to the next. 

Traditions Are Ever Changing

Traditions can evolve over time following a similar pathway of the childhood game “telephone.” Their original value can change or even become lost by the very rituals, customs, or symbols created for the tradition itself. 

Such traditions, according to American-British author Henry James, “take an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition” and that little tradition is “kept alive only by something being added to it.” 

The Evolution of a Rock Hunt

hand holding rocks

Lowry Nature Center has a tradition that has been evolving for over 40 years. The Spring Eggstravaganza, also known as the Rock Hunt, is a simple event meant to connect families with nature while having fun doing it. It originally was based on the cultural tradition of an Easter egg hunt where plastic eggs filled with candy were hidden along trails for families to find.

However, it was soon discovered that children were not the only ones to enjoy the delicious chocolate bunnies hidden inside.

The program quickly changed because of the disappearing treats, and the plastic eggs were replaced with rocks marked with unique patterns and symbols. The goal was for each child to find hidden rocks that matched a starter rock and return them all for a treat at the nature center.

Problem solved!

Until the program grew from 20 to 50 to hundreds of participants. Staff adapted again by adding hundreds more rocks and replacing the symbols with colored, paint-dipped rocks. 

Over the years, this event has grown to include meeting reptiles and amphibians, a raptor show, face painting, crafts, and a costumed bunny, as well as bunnies, sheep, and chicks visiting from nearby Gale Woods Farm.

Want to join the fun this year? Spring Eggstravaganza is on April 19 and 20. Buy tickets today.

A Community Tradition

kids playing in sand

With thousands of visitors, school groups, and program participants each year, the number one response I hear when asking visitors if they have been to Lowry Nature Center before is, “Oh, yes! I come here every year with my family to hunt for rocks in the woods!” 

It amazes me that such a simple idea to get families outdoors over 40 years ago has become such an important tradition not only to the nature center itself but also for many families who have made it part of their own tradition. 

Connecting It All Back to Nature

girl with a basket

Each year, Spring Eggstravaganza often attracts over a thousand participants. Many may not make the link between hunting for rocks and connecting with nature, but secretly they are. Indeed, spending time in and connecting to nature is the goal of our longest standing event (and, really, all of our programs and the idea of Lowry Nature Center itself). 

Such programs create fond memories. When visitors reminisce of their time spent outdoors, we hope they are excited to return time and time again, building upon memories and making new ones, all while fostering a passion for the natural world. 

While writing this post and reflecting on Lowry’s history, this quote by Gustav Mahler came to mind: “Tradition is not just to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame.” 

And that is exactly what we are doing, one painted rock at a time.

Nature’s Classroom for 50 Years

In 2019, Lowry Nature Center celebrates 50 years. Watch for special events throughout the year, plus additional blog posts on the legacy from the past 50 years and dreams for the next 50!


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About the Author

Brianna Rodgers and family

Brianna Rodgers has been an Interpretive Naturalist at Lowry Nature Center since 2012. She has a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management, has taught outdoor education at Staring Lake Outdoor Center in Eden Prairie, and worked as a research biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in northern Minnesota. During her time at FWS, she loved being outside daily but missed getting to share her knowledge and passion of the natural world with others. This led her to the field of outdoor education where she helps park visitors of all ages experience joy found in nature. Brianna enjoys finding adventures everyday with her husband, daughter, and two coonhounds.

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