Ozark Natural Science Center

The Ozark Natural Science Center (ONSC) is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) environmental educational organization facility in the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission’s Bear Hollow Natural Area, located adjacent to the McIlroy Madison County Wildlife Management Area in northwest Arkansas. ONSC offers summer camps, adult and family programming, and conference facilities but is best known as the site of school excursions for more than 4,000 public and private school students from Arkansas and beyond each year.

The mission of ONSC is to “enhance the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment.” This mission is achieved by providing educational programs that immerse participants in the Ozark ecosystems and celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster conservation and stewardship, and nurture appreciation of nature in the Ozarks. Programs focus on helping children and adults develop a sense of place and wonder for the diversity of life and stress the importance of natural systems.

In 1989, a small group, guided by Ken and RuAnn Ewing of Rogers (Benton County), started meeting to develop a concept for a residential field science center in the Arkansas Ozarks. This resulted in the Ozark Natural Science Center’s incorporation in 1990 and subsequent nonprofit 501(c)(3) status in 1993. In 1992, the center hosted its first residential program: a two-week Wet ‘n Wild camp, part of the Arkansas Enrichment for the Gifted in Summer (AEGIS) program of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). With the science center under construction, campers slept in platform tents and dined in a partially completed dining room. By 1994, the main Ewing Centre was complete and housed administrative offices, the kitchen, and the dining hall. In 1994, ONSC began offering residential school-based programming for 700 Rogers and Bentonville (Benton County) fifth-grade students. As of 2011, the central campus includes three lodges, an education building, guest housing, faculty housing, the Stewart Springfield Memorial Outdoor Classroom, an observation deck, and nearly eight miles of maintained hiking trails.

At ONSC, students learn about field science in a hands-on setting. Summer camps range from “Fledgling,” “Junior,” and “Senior Naturalist” levels to specialized camps such as Eco-Art, Ozarks Underground (caving when permitted), and River Odyssey Camp. Adult and family programs include a Women’s Yoga Retreat, a Dads in the Woods camp for families during Father’s Day weekend, fall family excursions, and other special offerings. ONSC employs a team of twenty-two administrative, food service, and maintenance staff members, including teacher naturalists with extensive backgrounds and at least a bachelor’s degree in subjects ranging from aquatic resources to zoology. ONSC is supported through donors, volunteers (ONSC Corps), donations, grants, and the annual “Call of the Wild” fundraiser held in April.

For additional information:
Ozark Natural Science Center. http://www.onsc.us (accessed February 7, 2022).

Naima Montacer
Ozark Natural Science Center


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