Saturday, January 5, 2013

Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

We've been to many nature centers over the last week and realized we really only needed to visit one more to go to all the nature centers within an hour radius of our house (we think! Let us know if we missed one!). So, off to Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Center we went! We were happy to note that the family membership from Kalamazoo Nature Center allowed reciprocal entrance here. Way to save money! Memberships are also available at Fernwood with discounts to programs and the store.

While specifically looking for the nature center, the beauty of the gardens even in winter, begs us to return. There were paved paths through much of the gardens, so a stroller would work well with little ones. The tropical room inside was neat. There was a train running through it for the holidays.

We took a short walk to the Nature Center.

As soon as we entered, the person inside pointed out the many wild turkeys leaving the feeders. I had never really thought of turkey as feeder birds, but it was neat to get a glimpse of them. There is also a "peanut butter" tree outside providing essential fat in the cold days ahead.

When we were outside later, we found what surely must have been turkey tracks! Exciting stuff!

This was a fun habitat game. We'd been playing (experiment, exploring, learning?) with a circuit board last week, so it was interesting to see the uses applied to habitats.

Scat! We actually did fairly well with matching different types of animal droppings with the pictures. We've seen many of these on our walks in Lieber Nature Preserve and other areas.

There was a reading and activity center. Loved the laminated, reusable sheets. My 3-year-old artist who is writing all over our walls these days did too.

I was surprised he was timid around the mystery boxes. He liked looking inside, but didn't want to touch the items without seeing them.

We found insect displays . . .

Mammal displays . . .

And a bobcat! Our oldest recently earned his Bobcat award in cub scouts.

There were displays about nature in winter and hibernation as well. I'm curious if these change with the seasons.

We played an animal geography sorting game.

We also checked out the herps and fish . . .

It's always neat to see live animals that we don't encounter on a regular basis.

Inside the main building, we looked at the tropical room again. It was great to see bananas growing again.

There is also a lending library for members. There are great titles and resources!

When asking questions about the facility, the ladies at the front desk mentioned a children's adventure garden. Since we're in the planning stages of a natural playscape area at Woodlawn Nature Center, I thought we'd check it out.

Even covered in snow, it looked fun. We have one son in particular who does not like to stick to trails. The gardens do seem like a stick to trails type of place from what we saw, so we'll need to better prepare him before we return. We understand there are many geocaches on the ground and we look forward to seeing everything in bloom. We'll be back!

The gardens offer unique habitats, plants, and opportunities to explore nature. I'm glad we didn't limit ourselves to the nature center, even though we enjoyed ourselves there.

I love the varying heights, textures, colors, etc. Looking forward to spring!