Director uses creativity to grow Lake View Nature Center
Liane Knight, supervisor of the Lake View Nature Center in Oakbrook Terrace, talks Tuesday about some of the animals that live there. | Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Liane Knight
ALMOST PURSUED: A job as a teacher
NUMBER OF VISITORS
DURING HER TENURE: More than 20,000
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:33AM
OAKBROOK TERRACE — Liane Knight was looking for part-time work in 1995 when she took a job as a program assistant for the one-year-old Lake View Nature Center in Oakbrook Terrace.
Knight had put a 10-year career as a medical technologist on hold for a decade to be a stay-at-home mom with her two children.
“When my youngest went to grade school, I was looking for a part-time job, and hospitals were not conducive to that for me because of the hours involved,” she said.
“I had been very active in Girl Scouts and PTA. There really wasn’t anything that drew me to this job when I started, other than it was a part-time job that wasn’t too far from home, and I felt I was good with kids.”
Knight said it was often boring when she began her part-time job at Lake View Nature Center, which is part of the Oakbrook Terrace Park District.
“The center hadn’t been open very long at all, and we had no visitors for the first six months,” she said. “I was never unhappy, though, that I took the job. We always had a lot of freedom from our directors to develop the place.”
The nature center’s mission is to bring fun, hands-on environmental education and recreation opportunities to Oakbrook Terrace residents and the general public, to promote awareness and appreciation of the natural world.
“I discovered I had a lot of creativity, and being able to use that creativity is something I have enjoyed here very much,” Knight said. “I think that being a parent and having been involved with Girl Scouts has helped because I have a pretty good idea what kids want.”
Children who visit the nature center especially enjoy seeing and touching the animals that live there, Knight said.
The nature center’s animal roster includes snakes, turtles, rats, insects, a chipmunk, mouse, rabbit and tarantula.
“Our first pet was a box turtle, Crystal, who came here just after I did,” Knight said. “Things really changed, for the better, after Crystal was here, and the kids just love the animals we have.”
Along with Knight, who has been the nature center’s supervisor for about five years, the staff includes part-time employees John Stoddard, naturalist; environmental educators Karen Ritter and Catherine Johns; and program assistant Hannah O’Malley.
“We create programs and have school groups here,” Knight said. “We’re always looking to come up with new ideas. One of the challenges now is that we’ve been having a lot of toddlers come in lately with their parents, so we want to have things that are appropriate for that age group.”
Knight said particularly enjoys working with kids aged 6-9.
“They’re old enough to be responsible for themselves, and they’re just so curious,” she said.
Knight has no plans to return to medical technology.
“I’ve been out of it so long that it would be tough to return,” she said. “I like it here. The people are so friendly. I took a huge pay cut to come here and stay, compared to what I would be making as a medical technologist, but I enjoy being here.”