Tamarack Nature Center

Owner: Ramsey County

Architect: Shelter Architect

Location: White Bear Township, MN

Size: 3,456 SF

Value: $1,100,000

Delivery Method: Design-Build

The Early Childhood Learning Center addition to the Tamarack Nature Center includes two new indoor classrooms with fully functioning kitchens and classroom bathrooms. In addition to the 320 acres of outdoor classroom throughout the park grounds, the ECFE and preschool programs have access to the new “Backyard” and “Cove” outdoor play and learning spaces, directly connected to their indoor space.

The Early Learning Center is constructed using load-bearing wood frame construction sitting on a conventional slab on grade. The wood stud framed walls support engineered wood trusses that form the hip roof structure. The exterior building envelope and shell are constructed using a mix of wood and fiber cement siding, providing a durable skin that harmonizes with the existing nature center. The pitched hip roof is constructed using asphalt shingles with deep overhangs to protect the building from the elements. Large expanses of wood windows with insulated glass provide natural light and views for the classroom spaces, encouraging young students to consider and explore the surrounding natural environment.

The interior construction and finishes were selected to provide durability. Each classroom was created with a wall of cubbies, allowing staff and students to organize and store items.

Designed to harmonize with the surrounding park, the site was carefully detailed to use native planting and promote the learning environment. Clear space was provided around the new learning center to create outdoor classrooms that utilize a mix of hard and soft scape to bring variety to the space. “The Backyard” is enclosed using a rustic fence constructed from reclaimed timber posts and wire mesh, providing separation without hampering the view of the adjacent spruce grove.