Bringing the Classroom Outdoors

ONSCStaff Report

SUMMER PROGRAMS: This summer, ONSC will be offering a whole new lineup of classes in the arts, bugs, river adventures, nature writing, young naturalists, and separate science camps for boys and girls. The classes offered include Natural Camp I and II, Ozark River Odyssey, Young Writers Camp, Environmental Education and the Arts Camp, Bug Camp, Go Science! Girls and Boys and several more. These classes can be found and registered for at***

The setting for the Ozark Natural Science Center (ONSC) in Hunstville is the 489 acre Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission Bear Hollow Natural Area that features nearly eight miles of trails, bluff shelters, rock outcroppings, glades, a historic farmhouse, cabin and beautiful vistas. Here, students learn about water quality and conservation along the crystal clear waters of Bear Hollow Creek, which bisects the natural area, and about bugs and plants and all things natural to the Ozarks. ONSC is also adjacent to the approximately 15,000 acre Arkansas Game and Fish Commission McIlroy-Madison County Wildlife Management Area.

The mission of the Ozark Natural Science Center is to enhance the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment. They achieve this by providing educational programs that immerse participants in the Ozarks ecosystems and celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster conservation and stewardship, and nurture appreciation of nature in the Ozarks. Their programs focus on helping children and adults develop a sense of place and a wonder for the diversity of life and the importance of natural systems around us.

Beginning in 1989, a small group of individuals guided by Ken and RuAnn Ewing of Rogers started meeting with the single purpose of developing a residential field-science center in the Arkansas Ozarks. Those early planning sessions resulted in The ONSC incorporation in 1990 and subsequent non-profit, 501 (c)(3) status in 1993.

In 1992, the Center hosted its first residential program: a two-week Wet’n Wild camp, part of the Arkansas Enrichment for the Gifted in Summer (AEGIS) program of the Arkansas Department of Education. Since the science center was under construction, campers stayed in platform tents and dined in a partially completed dining room. By 1994, the Ewing Centre was complete and housed administrative offices and the kitchen and dining hall. That same year, ONSC began offering residential school-based programming for 700 Rogers and Bentonville fifth-grade students.

“Each of our camps, from the Fledgling Naturalist to Bug Camp to the aptly named Ozark River Odyssey for teens, is designed to provide an adventure to remember, but also to teach kids our mission: to enhance the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment,” said Jena Barber, marketing and communications manager for ONSC.

Currently, the central campus includes three lodges, an education building, guest housing, faculty housing, the Stewart Springfield Memorial Outdoor Classroom, an observation deck, and almost eight miles of maintained hiking trails. ONSC’s school-based programming now offers hands-on, experiential field-science opportunities to more than 3,000 students from public and private schools in northwest and central Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

They offer authentic science learning experiences that are staffed by teacher-naturalists. Lessons and activities are correlated with science learning standards set forth by the Arkansas Department of Education, and provide in-depth education in biology, ecology, geology, and social studies — all while students have fun hiking and experiencing nature.

For more information on ONSC, visit


Categories: Family Friendly