Nature Center Programs

summer camper at nature centerThe E. L. Johnson Nature Center offers a variety of instructional programs that support classroom learning. All programs are based on specific science and social studies content expectations(GLCE's) as outlined by the Michigan Department of Education.

The programs are listed here for Bloomfield Hills Schools and for other visiting school districts.

Programs are also offered for scout groups, families and adults, and special events such as birthday parties.

Instructional Programs - BHS Students

classroom in cabin

The students who attend the Bloomfield Hills Schools participate in the following instructional programs at the Nature Center as part of the preschool and grade K-12 curriculum. All programs are based on specific science and social studies grade level content expectations(GLCE's) as outlined by the Michigan Department of Education.


Animal Homes - age 4
Children will search different nature center habitats for animal homes and signs of wildlife using simple scientific tools.

Nature Safari - age 3
The Nature Center staff will lead children on a high adventure nature scavenger hike searching for a variety of natural objects of various sizes, shapes, colors, and smells.

It's a Small World - age 4
Nature Center staff lead children on a search for tiny creatures that inhabit the earth. Simple scientific tools and equipment will be used to locate, identify, and observe specimens.

maple tapping at nature center

Elementary K-5

Signs of Spring - Kindergarten
Students will experience nature through the five senses by seeing, listening, touching, smelling, and tasting.

Log Cabin Living - Kindergarten
The past comes alive when students visit a pioneer cabin and experience all the chores and activities inherent in the pioneer days.

Animals Prepare for Winter - 1st grade
Students will experience how animals adapt and change in preparation for the cold winter months and explore various cycles in nature.

Pioneer School - 1st grade
Students will visit the historic one-room Wing Lake stone school and participate in a typical school day of the past.

Seeds and Plants - 2nd grade
Fall is a perfect time to collect, identify and study the plants and seeds of the Nature Center.

Water World - 2nd grade
Students will explore our stream and pond, pump water with a hand pump, and participate in other "wet" activities.

Geology, Rocks and Fossils - 3rd grade
The geologic history of the Great Lakes are emphasized in this all-indoor program. Touchable specimens of rocks, minerals, and fossils are used as well as a simulated archaeological dig.

Michigan Pioneers - 3rd grade
Students spend a half day living like the early settlers of Michigan in our log cabin including tapping maple trees and making maple syrup.

Secrets of Survival - 4th grade
Students will explore variations in physical characteristics/adaptations of animals that enable them to survive and reproduce, especially in cold climates.

Bird Field Research - 4th grade
Students will assist a licensed bander by checking mist nets, helping record data, and releasing captive birds. They will also study bird migration, bird identification, bird research, and conduct an annual bird census around the property.

Adaptations - 5th grade
Students will observe and explore a variety of plant and animal adaptations that enhance survival. Also, discussions will take place on 'survival of the fittest' and 'natural selection'.

Wildlife Field Research - 5th grade
Students will investigate the ongoing Isle Royale wolf-moose study and conduct a simulated wolf-moose count. They will also hone their observation skills through various hands-on activities and truly live the life of a field researcher.

Middle School 6-8

The Changing Earth - 6th grade
Basic concepts such as geologic time, erosion, rock formation, and interpreting the fossil record are explored through hands-on activities in this all-indoor program.

Wetland Ecosystems - 6th grade
Our pond and stream will be thoroughly explored. Abiotic components of the ecosystem will be identified as well.

Weather & Water - 7th grade
Students use a variety of weather equipment to measure micro-climates around the Nature Center property. They will also use electronic hand-held water monitoring equipment to analyze a tributary of the Rouge River and discuss watershed concepts.

High School

Environmental Field Research - 11th and 12th grade
Juniors and Seniors may elect to take a field course at the Nature Center that emphasizes research methods, data collection and analysis. Water quality, habitat, and wildlife are the focus of the research projects.

Instructional Programs - Other Schools

maple tapping at nature center

Instructional Programs - Available to Public, Private, Parochial, and Home Schools

Fall Programs

  • Log Cabin Living - Kindergarten -1st grade
  • Animals Prepare for Winter - 1st - 2nd grade
  • Plants and Seeds - 2nd - 3rd grade
  • MI Pioneers - 3rd - 5th grade
  • Wetland Ecology - 4th - 8th grade

Winter-Spring Programs

  • Discover Spring - Kindergarten
  • Log Cabin Living - Kindergarten - 1st
  • Maple Tap(March) - Kindergarten - 5th grade
  • MI Pioneers - 3rd - 5th grade
  • Wildlife Tracks/Traces - 3rd - 8th grade
  • Wetland Ecology - 4th - 8th grade


We offer "nature themed" walks that complement your curriculum. Call for possible dates and times.

Home Schools

We can adapt most of our listed programs to suit your needs.


  • All programs cost $6 per student except for MI Pioneers.
  • MI Pioneers cost $9 per student for ½ day cabin program or $12 per student for a full day that includes the one-room school program.

For curriculum questions call the Nature Center at 248.341.6485.
To schedule a tour call Jackie Doran at 248.341.6481.

Enrichment Programs - Parties, Day Camps, Scouts, Interpretive Programs

birthday party at nature centerOutdoor Birthday Parties

How about booking a "wild" birthday party? Your party coordinator will work with you to develop a theme to match your child's age and interests. Bugs? Birds? Animals? Plants? Special Hike? Our experienced guides can coordinate a nature-themed party that is fun and educational.

Parties are held Monday through Friday from 4:00-5:30p.m. and Saturday mornings.

To Schedule a Birthday Party at the Nature Center contact the Recreation Department at 248.433.0885

Summer Day Camps

Save time in your child's summer schedule for a fun and memorable nature camp!

Weekly sessions for a variety of age groups focus on different nature topics each day. Kids will explore habitats, hike the trails, create nature art, see animals up-close, and simply have a blast!

Register for Summer Camps!

Interpretive Programs for all ages

A variety of nature programs are held throughout the year. These programs are targeted towards families, adults, children, or a combination of all age groups.

The programs might include themed walks, campfires, night hikes, winter activities, pond exploration, or re-creating life in the past in our log cabins. Tapping the maple trees and making maple syrup is a favorite in the spring.

Scout Badge Programs

We can help Webelos, Cub Scouts, Brownies, and Junior Girl Scout leaders with badge or pin requirements on a variety of nature related topics.

Programs are usually held after school or on Saturday mornings. The cost is $5 per scout and the programs usually last an hour or more.

For more information contact Dan Badgley at 248.341.6485.