Threshold Learning Center - Zearing, Iowa
Press Articles 

Iowa State Students Help Build Lower Level for Incoming TLC Barn in Zearing, IA - 2006 

On Saturday, April 8th, 7 Iowa State Construction Engineering Students helped the Threshold Learning Center (TLC) Board Members build lower level exterior walls. This was the first step in the Barn Renovation Project that TLC has underway, renovating a donated barn into a dormitory for their overnight science and history programs. It will also be the location of a community theater, nature center, and museum on Iowa History. The main level will have eight barn "stalls," each with two bunk beds and a night stand, a girls’ bathroom, a boys’ bathroom, and a lounge area. Throughout the barn there will be pictures and displays that will depict life in Iowa around the year of 1881, when Zearing was established. Each bedroom will showcase a person or family from the surrounding community in the late 1800's. The upper level will be the dining area/dance hall with a kitchen, a stage, and more hands-on displays on Iowa History, farm life, and local wildlife.

The next step is the moving of the upper level of the barn. On April 21st in the morning the barn will be traveling 1 mile west of it’s current home, 2 miles south on Highway 65, 1 mile back east and then the final mile south to it’s new location at the TLC site. It will be quite a sight!

Then, on Saturday, April 22nd, TLC will be having a work day on the barn from 9:00 AM to Noon. The plan is to secure the lower level walls to the upper level and begin renovations. A free-will lunch will be offered for the helpers, the general public, and anyone interested in finding out more about the project. Lunch will be served from 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM at the Zearing Park Shelter located just south of the TLC site. At 1:00 PM the celebrating begins! We will have many FREE activities for the entire family from 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM back at the TLC site: Information Booth and Barn Tours, Hikes and Nature Programs, Crafts, Old-fashioned Games and Activities, Farm Petting Zoo, Face Painting, and more…

We hope to see you all on the 21st and 22nd! TLC is a non-profit, outdoor education/nature center that provides science and nature programs to nearly 3,000 students of all ages each year. Currently, we serve schools and communities located in Story, Marshall, Hardin, Hamilton, and Polk counties. The addition of a dormitory will enable us to reach schools and families from all over the state of Iowa.

The TLC Board of Directors would like to thank the ISU Construction Engineering Students for all of their help: Sean Brummer, Justin VanCoughnett, Brad Schoch, Sam Hoffman, Brandon Gries, Scott Cornelius and Ty, and Luke Barnum.

August 22, 2006

It has been a very busy summer for Threshold Learning Center (TLC), a non-profit outdoor education facility located in the northeast corner of Story County. In April, a donated barn was moved to the TLC site and renovations began to turn the barn into a dormitory for students who come for the overnight science and history programs TLC offers. The lower level will have 7 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a lounge. The upper level will be a dining hall/dance hall with a full kitchen and will be available to rent for reunions, weddings, birthday parties, etc. whe not in use for a school. Throughout the barn there will be displays on local history, farming practices, and wildlife. Cost of Phase One of the project, which includes the exterior and lower level, is $117,000.

After the move, the lower level walls were brought up under the top and support beams and the hallway were built. Then it was time for “The hard work that no one will ever see,” as volunteer David Obrecht put it. Plumbing was trenched in, insulation put down, and rows and rows of tubing for radiant heat were secured before the concrete floor could be poured. The barn has also been scraped and has a fresh coat of “Old-Fashioned Barn Red” paint. Windows and a new front door have been added as well. This past weekend the biggest project began – giving the barn a much-needed new roof.

The project has been steadily moving forward thanks to several volunteers from the Board of Directors and the surrounding community. They have been able to raise funds so far thanks to grants from the Community Foundation of Greater Story County, the Zearing Economic Development group, and the Story County Development group. Generous donors have also helped the cause: Peggy and David Obrecht who sponsored a bedroom for $2000 in memory of their son, Nathan Obrecht; Paul and Sue Vincent who sponsored a bedroom as well as providing in-kind materials and services; and many businesses and community members who have sponsored bunk beds or have bought a board. A wonderful surprise was Ailene Liechty’s donation of $10,000! Her son, John, says she is always interested in her home town of Zearing’s news and thought the TLC project sounded very worthy of their support.

TLC still needs to raise only $25,000 to finish Phase One! If you are interested in helping them achieve their goal, there are several ways:

BUY-A-BOARD: For $25, you or your business can have your name put on a board that will be located in the dormitory. You may purchase one board or several.

SPONSOR A BUNKBED: For $250, you can have your name or the name of your business placed on a bunked set (2 beds). 5 more bunks need sponsors.

SPONSOR A ROOM: For $2000, we will name a dormitory room after you, your business, or a loved one you would like to remember. 5 rooms still need a sponsor.

These are all a great opportunity for everyone to be a permanent part of this community project. For more information, contact Gretta Reischauer at (641) 487-7455, e-mail, or send your donation to TLC, PO Box 36, Zearing, IA 50278.

The TLC Board of Directors would like to thank everyone who has donated to or helped with the project so far.

November 14, 2006

Threshold Learning Center was presented a check for $4,000 at a press conference held on November 14. The $4,000 grant will be used to help TLC develop their Prairie Put-Put Golf Course that will be a working model of the concepts taught at TLC. It will also eventually become revenue for TLC’s after-school programs for Colo-NESCO students.

“We have been struggling every year to provide after school programs for some of the children in Zearing … living from grant to grant, since our biggest objective is that fees will not get in the way of a child participating. There have been times when we haven’t been able to have programs after school because the money just isn’t there,” claims Gretta Reischauer, Director and Naturalist for TLC. “So, last spring, as the students and I were discussing it, I said what we really need is something that will be a permanent money maker for the program. One of them suggested a mini golf course, to which we all laughed. Then we started thinking about it, putting numbers together, coming up with ideas and decided to start with a 9-hole course, where each hole covers a topic that we teach at TLC: nature appreciation, geology, archeology, water quality, recycling, archery, Native American Studies, astronomy, and Iowa History. They’ve come up with some really awesome ideas! I like how people will be learning something new while having fun.”

Charging a mere $3.50 per person, the students projected that they would be able to bring in at least $2600 and possibly up to $6000 for the program. What was lacking was the initial cost of building the course. An anonymous donor offered to purchase all the equipment needed once the course was ready (putters, balls, etc.) and also made a donation for some construction of the course. The rest of the cost will be covered by the grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Story County. “It’s such a great foundation,” states Reischauer, “spreading the wealth across the entire county. We small, rural organizations and towns have a lot of trouble getting grants, because we don’t impact the large numbers that organizations in Ames or the bigger cities do. The small numbers we do reach mean a great deal to us, however, and the CFGSC sees that.”

Who may use the course? Anyone! By August of 2007, the course will be ready for school groups, children after school or on the weekends looking for something to do, families wanting a way to spend some great time together or for birthday parties. “Threshold is always available to anyone who is looking for a fun, educational time outdoors. We thank the CFGSC for helping us reach people in a new way.”  For more information, contact Gretta Reischauer at (641) 487-7455, e-mail

November 19, 2006

On Wednesday, November 15th, 28 students from Colo Kids World delivered a large box of potatoes, 2 turkeys, and a few canned goods items to the House of Compassion, a homeless shelter located in Marshalltown. The produce was from the Colo/NESCO community garden located at Threshold Learning Center in Zearing. Last May, the Kindergarten and 1st grade classes from McCallsburg planted the garden during a field trip to Threshold. The garden was tended by campers who participated in Threshold’s summer day camps from both Colo, McCallsburg, and Zearing. The produce was harvested and the Colo After School Kids World participants delivered the food. The students were surprised with a goodie for their good deed by volunteers at the shelter who had baked cookies for them! They then enjoyed a tour of the kitchen and boarding facility and found out a little about how the shelter helps those in need.

With a warm send-off from the volunteers and patrons, the students were then off to McDonalds Play Place to let off some energy and enjoy ice cream sundaes sponsored by Threshold Learning Center. If you or your business would like to sponsor one of our upcoming field trips, please contact Gretta Reischauer at (641) 487-7455. Colo Kids World is a new enrichment program offered every Monday and Wednesday from 3:20 PM – 6:00 PM at the Colo Elementary School. Anyone interested in joining may call Gretta Reischauer at (641) 487-7455.