by Kacey Barton
Set on 49 unassuming acres of West Texas land, the Sibley Nature Center Foundation serves as an educational respite from the typical classroom setting. Within the trails can be seen several species of native plants and wildlife, such as Mesquite, cattails, jackrabbits, and several species of raptor. The center itself was founded by two teachers in the 1980s who wanted to give their students a unique experience – learning about native West Texas nature and wildlife in-person. Today, it is still thriving with local flora and fauna as well as field trips and casual visits by the public.
In addition to the outdoor trail systems and gardens, there is an educational center where visitors of any age can see taxidermy of living species, including a Phytosaur skull from the Triassic period, long since extinct. Among the public taxidermy are a private collection of insects, skulls, bird skins, and a herbarium. The center also houses a natural history library within its walls. Sibley aims to teach children about the nature and history of the area with displays and field trips that take place at the center, and presentations at local schools.
One of the most impressive attractions at Sibley is the cross-section of a beehive mounted in a window for viewing. Visitors can watch as the bees bring back pollen, make honey, and communicate with each other in the Waggle Dance, which is a beekeeping term for the figure-eight dance of the honey bee. The Midland Beekeeping Association hosts monthly meetings at the center which are open to the public, in order to teach visitors about the unparalleled importance of the honeybee to agriculture in the local community.
The center also provides benefits to those who choose to become members: the Permian Basin Outing Club. The PBOC takes members on trips throughout the Llano Estacado and Transpecos area, for outdoor activities such as backpacking, caving, archaeology, and many other excursions. Individuals and families are welcome on the outings, and they serve to teach adults and children about the environment, outdoor skills, and local history. Past trips have included rock climbing and pictographs at Hueco Tanks State Park and caving at Amazing Maze near Bakersfield.
In a world where habitat destruction is a common occurrence in communities around the globe, places like the Sibley Nature Center are indispensable tools of education and preservation. They also serve as an example that change can start in your own backyard. Have you ever wondered how to help out your local plant and wildlife? Try setting up hummingbird and bee gardens with native flowers, installing bat boxes in your backyard, thinking twice about spraying your lawn with pesticides, or asking your local government what you can do to help local wildlife.