Gateway Outdoor Learning Center

The Gateway – Conneaut Outdoor Learning Center: Beginnings In 2012, the founder of the Outdoor Learning Center, Matt Crawford, had a super idea for the creation of an Outdoor Learning Center on the property directly north of the Conneaut Middle School.

In 2012, the founder of the Outdoor Learning Center, Matt Crawford, had a super idea for the creation of an Outdoor Learning Center on the property directly north of the Conneaut Middle School. With 100% support from the Conneaut Superintendent of Schools Mr. Kent Houston, Matt met with the Conneaut Board of Education and presented a full overview of his vision for a future Outdoor Learning Center. Matt was given permission to implement the creation of an Outdoor Learning Center (OLC) that would serve the students and teachers of the Conneaut School System and the community of Conneaut. Matt began to accumulate needed supplies to move forward with his vision. Since the Conneaut School System would not be supporting this venture, Matt began to gather equipment and supplies by applying for his first of many grants.

The project moved ahead and after a first successful year of use by the Conneaut School District Science Department utilizing the OLC trails, the founder and teaching staff began open communications in regards to teacher needs and wishes to continue supporting the use of the OLC to support science instruction. From this point on, the OLC founder has used various funding resources including grants and fund raisers to provide teachers and students with materials to use at the OLC to support science instruction. The Outdoor Learning Center has become a source of pride in the school district and throughout the community.

In 2017, a Steering Committee was formed to assist the Outdoor Learning Center in moving forward and assist Matt with his projects. The OLC has grown from a series of well-maintained trails with flora clearly marked to include educational settings within the beautiful woodlands. Bee Hives, a pollinator garden, a weather center with a wind mill and much more has been added since 2012. The Outdoor Learning Center has been honored to receive the Master Gardeners’ “Pollinator Garden of the Year” Award and has been designated by the Ohio Department of Nature and Recreation as a “Project Wild” School Site.


A supporter writes:

As spring unfolds, I can’t help but be excited about a new season at the Outdoor Learning Center! So much to see and do – bee hives, pollinator garden, weather station, windmill, and wonderful easy to  trails to walk native plants clearly marked – oh – and a vernal pool as well plus learning areas for Conneaut students! At this difficult time in life, the best thing about the OLC is that it is easy to enjoy this beautiful center while social distancing at the same time. Summer will come, the birds, bees and butterflies will arrive and the cycle of life will continue. You will want to be a part of all that the OLC has to offer our community!

As the summer season winds down, we can enjoy one day devoted to all Mother Nature has to offer us at the Outdoor Learning Center by participating in the OLC Discovery Day on the second Saturday in September! What do I like best about Discovery Day? I love seeing parents, family and friends take their children for a hike in the woods using a simple scavenger hunt provided by the Conneaut Convention and Visitors Bureau. There is nothing like a walk in the woods to pique the interest of children in all that Mother Nature has to offer. The scavenger hunt is simply a starting point for exploration! It can encourage families to return to the OLC for more exploration!

What else do I love about OLC Discovery Day? Last year it was setting Monarch Butterflies free that had recently hatched! What a thrill for our granddaughters! We all enjoyed other activities especially nature-centered crafts, and activities like fly fishing and archery. There is nothing better than watching children interact with adults to learn  more about the great outdoors!

Please plan to attend the 2020 Outdoor Learning Center Discovery Day on Saturday, September 12, from 10 am to 3 pm. Bring your family and any other young people you can include. You’ll be so glad you did!

Meanwhile, enjoy a little scavenger hunt with your family some time!

Connie Naylor

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Gateway Outdoor Learning Center is to educate by providing a nature preserve for environmental learning.