Set on 661 acres in rural Barry County in southwest Michigan, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, a mix between an environmental education center, nature center, and biological field station, provides visitors with an opportunity for outdoor education and exposure to a blend of diverse habitats including wetlands, forests, marshes, streams, lakes, and prairies.
To fulfill our mission"to promote environmental education, research, preservation, and appreciation," the Institute offers environmental education and sustainable land management programs to the community, educating environmental stewards by communicating the core values of land conservancy, environmental responsibility, citizenship, inclusiveness, and the pursuit of knowledge; undergraduate research grants and research partnerships with a consortium of area colleges and universities; and miles ofhiking trails open to the public, free of charge, from dawn to dusk year-round.
No Family Left Indoors
Free Family Fun every Tuesday night!
June 9 through August 18
6:30 – 8 pm
Get outside and enjoy all the local community has to offer! The free No
Family Left Indoors programs are scheduled throughout the summer at a different Barry County location
Pierce Cedar Creek Institute Pilots New Grow Native!
Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms
Students in preschool and early elementary are already curious about all the different plants around us and how plants grow. This curiosity can be used to develop important skills in observation and critical thinking that many experts say are key to a student’s success in learning. Over this past winter, education staff from Pierce Cedar Creek Institute developed curriculum materials for early childhood educators to help students learn more about plants and, more specifically, about native plants and pollinators and their roles in Michigan ecosystems. This curriculum can be used in both the classroom and during field trips to the Institute to explore the beautiful and important prairie habitat that will be created on the berm of the Education Building. Providing easy access and hands-on learning is an important element of the Grow Native! project at the Institute. Along with educational opportunities, this project also involves the construction of over 80 acres of native prairie habitat, which provides homes for a variety of native birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and insects throughout the Institute’s 661 acres. This native plant and pollinator curriculum is available for free at cedarcreekinstitute.org/EducatorMaterials.html. By developing curriculum for teachers to use, Institute staff can support local early childhood educators who would like to integrate more science into their classes.
Working with volunteers, education staff visited seven Great Start Readiness Program preschool classrooms in both Hastings and Delton, as well as the preschool classroom at the Hastings Area Childcare Center. Students observed different plants and seeds to explore the diversity in the plant kingdom and to learn about the different parts of plants. Students described which plants were the same and which were different, which were larger and which were smaller, and which were different shapes and colors. Students used their five senses to smell, feel, look at, listen to, and even taste some plants. They learned about what plants need to live. Students even got the opportunity to investigate plant life cycles by becoming plants. Like a plant, each student started the life cycle as a seed, then germinated, grew, made flowers, was visited by bees and butterflies, and, finally, made seeds. After this fun, interactive, and imaginative lesson, students planted their own seeds and started seed journals to track the growth of their plants.
Here are some ideas for helping children learn more about plants and plant life cycles and therefore encouraging them to develop important skills that are key to their future success:
Visit a greenhouse or farm and take a look at all the different types of plants. Practice using your five senses to describe them, focusing on their different colors, textures, smells, sounds, and sizes. You can even work on counting the plants lined up in rows.
Journey to the farmer’s market and have your child pick out some plants to try. Often times there will be vegetables and fruits your child hasn’t seen before or even different colors of produce than what they are used to. What a great opportunity to try something new and something healthy at the same time!
Take an adventure to a natural area near you and visit several different plant community types. Notice how forests have trees, prairies have tall grasses and flowers, wetlands have plants that live in water, and sand dunes have clumps of grasses. While you are out exploring, look for butterflies and bees that might pollinate flowers or birds and mammals that might disperse seeds.