Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in Willow Springs, IL is a must see nature center in the Chicago area. I believe I went here once as a child, but it's a vague memory.
In 2010, a new visitor center, additional live animal exhibits and a children's activity room were added. This nature center had definitely changed in the years since I was there. This was a first trip for Fran, Lilia and Franky so we were excited about our new adventure.
Little Red Schoolhouse was named after (you guessed it) a schoolhouse on the grounds that was built in 1886. In 1915, the Forest Preserve District of Cook Co. was formed and set out “to establish a great natural park in the hills, ravines and forests of Palos.” You can read more about the fascinating story of the Little Red Schoolhouse and surrounding area by clicking here.
Walking into the visitor center, you'll find the children's activity room which houses books, puzzles, a craft area and and native artifacts. The other side of the visitor's center hosts wildlife native to the area such as snakes, turtles, owls, insects, frogs and preserved animals.
There is a winding ramp that leads visitors down to the lower level which contains both visual and hands on displays about the natural history of the area. The kids could have stayed inside all day, but we wanted to venture outdoors.
We took a walk down a path that forms a large loop around the center. We first walked up to a beautiful pond and saw bullfrogs, fish and dragonflies alongside the lily pads.
All along our walk we saw birds, wildflowers and an overlook onto another lake where we watched a Great Blue Heron take flight amid the Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese.
If you love interesting history and exploring nature then I highly recommend you head on over to Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center. You can find directions and more details about the center by clicking here.