Content brought to you by Excellent Schools Detroit
Where can you find forests and wetlands – not to mention up-close (and safe) views of an actual beehive, interactions with real deer and brushes with various Michigan-native animals? In Detroit, of course! It’s all waiting at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo, a haven of nature offering educational, environmental experiences with wildlife on an urban island.
At the BINZ, as it’s called for short, kids explore a clean, well-maintained ecosystem. Not only do they learn about the world around them; they have a chance to experience it firsthand.
With exhibits indoors and out, families have plenty to explore. “We generally host between 8,000 and 10,000 school kids per year,” says manager Mike Reed. Some year-round classroom options, like Nature Adventures tours, cover grades K-12; others hone in on younger kids, like a K-5 reptile program. Seasonally, you can also hike through backyard and wildwood trails.
“Two of the most popular exhibits are the bird window viewing area and the live beehive,” Reed says. “People will just stay there for hours watching. It’s like a window to the natural world.” Plus, both are inside – making them great to visit no matter what time of the year it is, from summer to chillier winter months.
You’ll also meet 15 very special residents: a herd of European fallow deer. Their history on the isle goes back to 1895. Today, you can visit them for public feedings at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Each visitor gives one deer one cracker (diets are closely monitored). They don’t bite, but might lick!
Field trips are a popular choice, too. These programs include hands-on activities, a bio fact discovery time – and they’re all free. But even if your child’s school doesn’t attend, you can call ahead to schedule a personal tour, Reed suggests, to get the best and most personalized experience.
“Our motto is, ‘Bringing the wow to Michigan and the heart of Detroit,'” says Reed. And one of the best parts of visiting the BINZ is that all the programs, exhibits and tours are free.