GTPulse: Nature-based Fall Classes Open For Kids

Every park in my hometown has a large metal bin that sits in the center of a few picnic tables. It looks like a dumpster, but with french doors. On weekends, a lady with a long calico skirt and a bandana tying her hair back would unlock those doors and bring out stacks of thick colored paper, sequins, markers, watercolor paint, string, googly eyes, and anything else you could use to make a master creation. It was a way for kids to get outside and expel some creative energy. Who knows when they’ll open again because truth be told, the parks are small and those picnic tables are nestled close together. 

The kids of Northern Michigan won’t have to worry about finding places to explore outside this fall, or rather, their parents won’t. With an abundance of beautiful outdoor space, it’s easy for all of us to stay active outdoors and the Grand Traverse Conservation District is making it even easier. They’re bringing back outdoor classes for little ones for the season, and they’ll be a great way to keep your little one connected to nature and peers.

The GTCD is a lovely community resource that all are encouraged to responsibly enjoy. With a mission to show, educate, and care for the area’s natural water, land, wildlife and animals, it’s an accessible way to learn and leisure outdoors.

The Boardman River Nature Center is like an art gallery for natural life. Changing, interactive exhibits feature plants and animals local to the region. Built in 2008, the center is focused on providing families with a way to connect with nature in a hands-on and educational way. Wetlands, hiking trails and native plant gardens are all apart of the 505-acre Natural Education Reserve.

Nature has proven to be beneficial to people to people of all ages, with proven benefits in stress reduction, increased mental energy, improved mental health, concentration, creativity, and so much more. These benefits impact children as well, and it’s arguably even more important for them to immerse themselves in nature when they can for their developing mental and physical strength. With such a large portion of 2020 spent indoors, alleviating some screen time is much needed for all of us, and the new classes at the Boardman River Nature Center is a great way to do so.

Classes haven’t run all summer, but weekly outdoor classes will begin Monday the 14th with Knee High Naturalists, a twice a week, two-hour drop off class for ages 3-5 that introduces kids to the GTCD grounds and sparks curiosity and imagination about the world around them. Limited to 12 participants.

If your child isn’t quite ready for drop off yet, consider the Peepers class which is adult accompanied. This class is also for children ages 3-5 years old but is only once a week. Class material is focused on activities that include music, storytelling, crafts, and other interactive activities. Limited to five kids per class.

Homeschooled kids ages kindergarten through 5th grade have a Friday option for a two-hour drop off class with kindergarten through 2nd grade beginning at 10 a.m., and 3rd through 5th beginning at 3 p.m. These are limited to five kids per class.

Registration for all classes can be done online, and classes I’m sure will fill up fast. Even without the classes, the Boardman River Natural Area is a great activity for adults sans kids too.

For all the hearts wondering about forest preservation, a walking tour of a managed forest will be hosted with the Leelanau Conservation District, Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, Benzie Conservation District, and Natural Resources Conservation Service in Buckley this Saturday. Topics covered include forest management, health, invasive species, and others. Registration is $5 and includes lunch.

An opportunity for a workbee next month to protect the Boardman invites folks to help plant bareroot seedlings along the banks of the Beaver Pond Trailhead. Riparian buffers are various grasses, shrubs and trees that prevent erosion from happening around the river. Beyond that, they’re known to help keep some pollutants like fertilizer, sediment, pathogens, pesticides out of the water and improve the quality, which in turn improves the quality of life for fish and wildlife habitats.

With a cooler and quieter season coming, I keep getting temporary anxiety over the beach days that have slipped through my fingers again. The end of summer in Northern Michigan can give way to thoughts of a slow migration indoors. But with outdoor options like the Boardman River Nature Center, we can hang on awhile longer.

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Categories: GTPulse