Connect with the natural world

Tanglewood Hollow offers classes, products and time with nature

Growing up, Allyson Speake developed a fascination with and appreciation for the natural world, something that she wanted to bring to others in the community. In March of last year Speake established Tanglewood Hollow, an educational supply store offering classes on a variety of nature-oriented topics for kids, toys and more on Storrs Street in Concord, to do just that.

“My grandfather was a naturalist and he grew wild cottage gardens for attracting wildlife and so I spent … many years alongside him as he taught me more about wonder and curiosity and seeing nature through that lens,” Speake said. “He just opened my eyes to what an amazing world we live in, and his home was called Tanglewood Hollow, so that’s … where the name came from.”

As a former teacher, Speake noticed that kids were struggling with what she called nature deficit disorder, and she wanted to find a way to foster natural curiosity and help them find connection to the natural world. Prior to opening Tanglewood Hollow, Speake would teach groups of homeschooled students from her home. She wanted to find a way to reach more of the community.

“I think it’s absolutely vital for us to build that relationship with nature,” she said. “If kids aren’t given that opportunity or are uncomfortable getting outside, how can we expect for them to really be the next stewards of our Earth and care for it and love it in that same way? Right now, it’s of utmost importance to care for our Earth and to do things to help it, so really I would say that’s probably the overall mission for us [is] helping to build the next stewards of our Earth.”

At Tanglewood Hollow, kids get hands-on experience during classes in the Nature Lab on topics like microscopes, dissecting owl pellets, raptors, making slime as well as nature crafts and activities. In one class, children were able to build a rotting log community where they could hold creatures like beetles, millipedes and pill bugs before adding them to the community to observe the breakdown. They will also have the opportunity to see the leopard gecko, Berry, and the jumping spider, as well as Clementine the corn snake, who sometimes comes out for interaction.

“I’m a big proponent of teaching kids to love the unloved things, and these creatures are things that are very often misunderstood, and people are scared and fearful of them,” Speake said.

“We try as often as we can to get [Clementine] out with the kids so they can have a good, positive experience.”

Many items are available in the shop, such as stuffed animals, life cycle kits, rocks, minerals, foraging tools, bug catching nets, butterfly kits, and curiosities, which are monthly mystery boxes that contain four different items from nature, previously including North American porcupine quills and fossils, that come with a newspaper written by Speake that gives information about the items.

“We would love to do some special things for the solar eclipse that’s happening in April, some star viewing at night … [and] more off-site classes for children and families,” Speake said. “We’ve got lots of plans for things. … You never know what you’re going to find here.”

Tanglewood Hollow
Where: 93 Storrs St., Concord
When: Open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

Featured image: Courtesy photo.

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