Is your kid constantly scouting around for crawly critters or feathered friends in your backyard – and peppering you with questions about the natural world? He or she is sure to go wild over what’s in store the Leslie Science and Nature Center.
This nature center and educational hub, located on the north side of Ann Arbor, aims to educate kids about the natural environment and teach them to respect it through special events, animal displays and nature trails – all conveniently located right here in southeast Michigan.
“We want people to be outside and enjoying nature,” says Susan Westhoff, the executive director of the nature center and a mom herself. “(We offer) a unique setting where you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but really you’re close to the city.”
Families can visit the Leslie Science and Nature Center free of charge any day of the year to wander the its mile-long Black Pond Woods nature trail – or to visit the center’s 15 birds of prey, all of which suffered some kind of injury that makes in impossible to release them back into the wild.
“We have owls that were hit by cars and a bald eagle that had a tree in a tornado fall on her,” Westhoff says, adding, “They are really amazing educators alongside our human educators. I mean, how often can you get close to a bald eagle or a great horned owl?”
In addition, the center also plays home to bats – which will be the focal point of nocturnal animal programming come fall 2018 – and more than 50 reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates in its Critter House, which is open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays and for special programming throughout the year.
Activities and camps
Events and learning experiences are a key focus, too. In fact, a quick visit to Leslie Science and Nature Center’s website lists upcoming activities right on its home page.
“Our focus is programming,” Westhoff says. “We work with area schools and scout troops and we take our programs to them. We travel quite a distance (and) we have a really robust summer program.”
During those summer months, the center boasts intentionally designed preschool programs, volunteer opportunities for high school students, campouts and camp programs for kids of all ages – including ones developed with the help of the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville.
“We have camps about robots in the land and sky (and) rocket ships, and there’s one about super-secret spies,” Westoff says of the Yankee camps, which are held at that location. “We have one on forensics, using chemistry, and others on science, fun and invention.”
The nature center also hosts camps with a primary focus on animals and environmental education in the summer.
Plus, find campfires and guided nature walks throughout the year – and even festivals, including ones for Halloween and the annual monarch butterfly migration. Most of the events and camps held by the Leslie Science and Nature Center require a fee, which varies based on each activity.
“We really strive for a variety (of activities),” Westoff says. “We want to offer something for everyone.”