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Education Programs: Families

Always free. Always fun.

Foster a natural curiosity in your family for science and the great outdoors with our programs for families with children aged 3-12. Experience the topic of the day through discovery hikes, stories, games, and nature art projects. Programs are led by environmental educators. Registration is not required unless designated otherwise. For groups larger than 10 people, please provide advance notice so we can plan accordingly. Programs take place both in the Bunker Interpretive Center, and out in the Ecosystem Preserve, so please come prepared for walking outside in a variety of weather conditions.

First Saturdays

Discover the Wild Turkeys!
November 7, 2015 at 10:30 am - 12 pm
Educator: Nancy McIntyre, Naturalist

Wild turkeys abound in our preserve and neighborhoods in Grand Rapids. Learn more about this nature neighbor just in time for the Thanksgiving season, by playing turkey games and practicing turkey calls. One lucky volunteer will even be transformed into a Wild Turkey as we work together to learn more about this unique creature! Please dress appropriately for the weather and playing games outside. This program is perfect for adults and families with children ages 3 and up.

Woodpeckers: Peckin' Out a Living
December 5, 2015 at 10:30 am - 12 pm
Educator: Neil Gilbert, Birder & Naturalist

When you think about it, woodpeckers are truly odd birds to incessantly whack their beaks against trees all day. So why do they do it? And how do their bodies withstand such a steady stream of torture? Birder Neil Gilbert will answer these questions and introduce you to the woodpeckers found in Michigan, as we hike through the preserve in search of these birds. At the end of the program, participants can make a pinecone feeder to take home with them. This program is appropriate for adults and families with children ages 5 and up.

30th Anniversary Celebration

Please join us for a 30th anniversary celebration during our Family Weekend Open House on Saturday, October 24 at 10 am - 4 pm. Drop in to create some of our favorite art projects using leaves and seeds. Meet our teaching animals. Enjoy the fall foliage while you hike our scenic trails. Express yourself by making a piece of land art of natural materials you find in the forest, and leave it for others to discover. Light refreshments will be offered.

Special Event: Behind the Gates Tours

As a special treat on our 30th anniversary, we are offering two EXCLUSIVE Behind the Gates Tours! Are you curious about what lives behind the gates in our Buiten Wildlife Sanctuary? This is your all-access pass to find out! It's a rare opportunity to explore the 60 acres of wildlife refuge we use for scientific research. You will take a guided tour of the area, and learn about its history, its inhabitants, and its future. Tours begin at the Bunker Interpretive Center.

Important Tour Details:

  • The tours are open to ages 12 and older. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Dress for walking off-trail. Long pants and closed-toe shoes are required. We will be walking on moderate slopes and narrow, uneven deer paths where poison ivy, tall grasses and shrubs are prevalent.
  • Dress for the weather. Tours will be held in light rain.
  • These tours are free, but you must pre-register here, as space is limited to 16 participants per program.

Behind the Gates Tour #1: Looking Back and Looking Forward
Hear the story of the preserve from the person instrumental to its creation. Learn about its unique natural history, see archeological artifacts, and understand how we will manage the land for healthy habitats in the future.
When: Saturday, October 24 at 9 - 10:30 a.m.
Guest Guide: Dr. Randy VanDragt, Preserve Director

Behind the Gates Tour #2: Flora and Fauna of the Preserve
As former Preserve Stewards, your guides will share their stories from the sanctuary with you. Learn about many of the hundreds of species residing here, and the research projects our stewards conduct every year.
When: Saturday, October 24 at 2:30 - 4 p.m.
Guest Guides: Neil Gilbert & Sheila DeVries, Naturalists & Ecosystem Preserve Alumni

If you are unable to attend these tours, there will be another opportunity in the spring, so please check back.

walking the trail

boy making seed art

catching insects