Center Allows Winter Programs
February 1, 2005
Prior to the opening of Calvin's Vincent and Helen Bunker Interpretive Center last fall, the college's popular Ecosystem Preserve was unable to accommodate winter visitors.
Now the Bunker Center is expanding the preserve's reach to area school children by offering winter programming for the first time ever.
From February 14 through March 11, the Ecosystem Preserve will host "Winter Wonders," a class geared to second and third-grade students. The 90-minute program will be offered Mondays through Fridays at various times (see box for complete list).
"It's going to be exciting to offer something inside this year," says Cheryl Hoogewind, manager of the Ecosystem Preserve.
"Winter Wonders" will direct the kids' attention to the variety of wintry weather - blizzards, freezing rain, sleet, and that Michigan stalwart, lake-effect snow. However, the class won't simply study the many ways winter keeps people indoors, but it also will examine the marvels of the wintry outdoors.
"I want to get the kids outside to see that snow has insulating properties. If you get snow deep enough, you can cut down and see each layer that has fallen," Hoogewind says.
Students also will study how animals survive the winter - specifically, how they find food to live.
"We'll be looking for evidence of these animals along the trails," says Hoogewind, "and for caches of food. When the snow starts melting you can see all the different trails where the animals were tunneling."
While they research on the trail, the children will be learning the many Inuit names for snow and applying them to the kinds of snow they see.
Back indoors, the class will study Native American winter legends and craft their own paper snowflakes.
"We can go out and explore a little bit and then come in and get warm by the fire," Hoogewind says.
Since the Bunker Center opened, on September 10, 2004, the preserve has seen double the visitors it typically had, and Hoogewind is excited about the new winter programming.
"If people have come in the spring and summer and fall, it will be nice for them to see it in the winter," she says.
The Bunker Interpretive Center is named for Helen Bunker, who gave the original lead gift to build the interpretive center, and her late husband Vincent. Also contributing to the building of the Bunker Center were Thelma Venema, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Frey Foundation and the DTE Energy Foundation.
The Center is a largely self-sustaining entity, independent of the city's sewer system and taking more than 60 percent of its operating power from a photovoltaic array on its roof. Much of the center - including paneling, insulation and interior trim - is built of recycled materials. On days the weather permits, the windows open automatically to heat and cool the building. Gray water (from sinks) is recycled through a biomass, a large window box filled with plants that filter the water and return it to preserve ponds. Waste is processed through chemical composting toilets. The soil from those toilets, processed by worms, will eventually enrich the center's landscaping - all indigenous plants grown in the preserve.
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