One of the last unspoiled areas in Midland County, the I-20 Wildlife Preserve and Jenna Welch Nature Study Center offers teachers a place to bring students to learn about local natural wonders.

Curriculum Developer Emmy Ulmschneider said youngsters learn about the playa, plants, a wide variety of wildlife and learn about the issues involved in managing wild spaces today. Playas are dry lakes, which help recharge the aquifer when it rains.

“Early on we made a position statement on education so that we could dive deep into education. One of the things that we found with the elementary school students is that they’re afraid of nature. They come out here expecting to see tigers and all these animals that don’t exist here. They know more about animals in Africa than they know about the ones right here, so it’s really important for us to give them a sense of place,” said Elaine Magruder, president of the board of the I-20 Wildlife Preserve and Jenna Welch Nature Study Center.

Magruder said she and center officials have combined history with their experience.

“We really want the students to understand that Native (Americans) … and their role in playas through the decades and centuries and then how it’s evolved through ranchers and now with human interaction of being right in the middle of oil service companies and how we hold hands … with the industry. I think that’s a good thing,” Magruder added.

Magruder said the center draws about 500 visitors a week.