The BHS Johnson Nature Center is known for maple syrup, the walking trails and pond, and the hawks and deer that reside there. However, you might not know that it is also a key partner in teaching the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) to Bloomfield Hills Schools students. All K-7th grade students take two field trips each year to the 35-acre preserve.
"Our main function is to augment the classroom instruction," Dan Badgley, Nature Center Manager says. "We run programs that are topical by grade. For instance, fifth graders learn to explore ecosystems and second graders learn about plants and habitats. We start by explaining science concepts and we follow up with engaging questions to bring more depth to the topic. We incorporate literacy and reading, too. Then, we break the students into small groups for hands-on experiences."
The NGSS is the result of 26 states, including Michigan, leading the development of new science education foundations that emphasizes both in-depth content and practical experience. Created by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the standards encompass every grade from K-12.
Badgley explains that the Johnson Nature Center offers students the chance to engage in hands-on learning. "We have a lot of science equipment and space in our building for science labs and extensive collections."
Second grade students tour the Nature Center grounds in the Fall, looking for various types of plants. They investigate how seeds travel, how plants make food, and how people use plants. They also explore the Nature Center's collection of unique seeds, including enormous Sequoia pine cones, prickly seed pods of chestnuts, and multiple types of coconuts. The students do two hands on labs: one with high-powered microscopes and one to taste various plants.
Avery Byers, second grader, was on the recent field trip with her class. "It was all really interesting!" she affirms as she nibbled on a radish slice, a new experience for her. Classmate Anneliese McKelvie wasn't sure what she was trying, but she liked it. "I liked the little green tubes," she says, pointing to the bowl of chives. "It tasted like spices."
Nina Tamai also had the opportunity to discover new things on the class field trip. "I learned that plants need carbon dioxide," she says, "and that some plants need a lot of water, while other plants can have too much water."
In addition to the K-8 classes, Bloomfield Hills High School students visit the Nature Center every day for an Environmental Field Research class. "What is offered at our Nature Center is something you would normally only see at the college level," explains Badgley. "We offer fantastic opportunities for learning that you wouldn't get anywhere else."