Nature CenterFor more than two decades, the Kennecott Nature Center has offered Murray School District students a unique outdoor education and experience. No other school district in Salt Lake County has such a facility that features hands-on biological science learning for some students. Not to mention an integration of creative writing, art, and photography experiences for other students.

The 1600-square-foot classroom of the Kennecott Nature Center is nestled on the second-largest wetland site of the Jordan River at 5044 S. Lucky Clover Lane (approximately 5100 South and 800 West) in Murray. Classroom windows look out across open trails and freshwater tributary, home to all kinds of wildlife, plants, and other organisms.

hawk watch demoFirst conceived by MCSD Superintendent Ron Stephens, the Nature Center was his second foray into such facilities. He worked previously at the Weber School District to establish a similar venture in Ogden Valley and could see the enormous potential.

This was also the more formal birth of the Murray Education Foundation (MEF), who Stephens felt would be an important fundraising arm, just as Ogden’s foundation was. Superintendent Richard Tranter picked up where Stephens left off and worked with MEF to acquire significant seed money from Kennecott, Murray City, and many other private donors. But just as important, Tranter and MEF rallied an enthusiastic base of community members to champion the project and see it to completion.

When finished in 2000, they hired a coordinator, Judith Payne, to develop the curriculum. She enthusiastically organized engaging lesson plans, nature walks, and in-depth exploration of surrounding plants and animal life. But she also worked to acquire additional funding to ensure the Center was adorned with eye-popping mounted animals, pelts, shells, eggs, teeth, claws, porcupine quills, and snake skins.

She invited interesting guest speakers from the Natural History Museum, Hawk Watch, and the Nature Conservancy, to name only a few. Over the years, Judith hosted and taught thousands of elementary and secondary classes with tens of thousands of students. Trips to the Nature Center have long been regarded as a highlight for Murray students.

Payne and Singer
Judith Payne (left) with Catherine Singer

Judith retired in 2021 but paved the way for Catherine Singer to continue the excitement and inspiration students get when they attend. Catherine’s passion for nature and the vision of the Nature Center have been the perfect transition. Her background includes a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in plant biology.

But her love for nature is both evident and infectious. Her unique ability to gauge her diverse audiences and ages is key to customizing their experience. Catherine knows that real and authentic experiences encourage further exploration, and tapping into that makes all the difference for some kids.

The Kennecott Nature Center is a crown jewel, and one of many reasons Murray City School District is special. Other school districts line up to get an open slot with Catherine, but Murray students are the priority and beneficiaries of this legacy of learning at the banks of the Jordan River.

If you have questions about the Kennecott Nature Center, you can reach Catherine at (801) 264-7495 or