School Programs

About Our Programming

As the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s mission is to inspire people to care for the environment by providing experiences that lead them to understand their connection to the natural world, KNC’s education department plays an essential role in supporting that mission, utilizing our programs to help schools and families in our community to have positive experiences exploring, and connecting with, nature.

To support this mission, our educators have embraced six program core values. These values are best reflected in the acronym ACORNS that we adapted from the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s CAMP, and our educators plant these acorns into every program we offer.

  • A: Active. Classes should always be actively exploring, discussing, and questioning as they investigate the natural world with our programs.
  • C: Curious: We want to help our students unbottle their curiosity, and really nurture a scientific mindset.
  • O: Outside. We’re all about being outside whenever possible, but if we can’t always bring students outside, we want to bring the outside in to the students.
  • R: Respectful. That golden rule we all know so well. Students are asked to be respectful of each other, their teacher/chaperones, and the KNC educator, and, likewise, the educator is expected be respectful to the class. Programs are  inclusive and adaptable to needs and/or learning styles.
  • N: Nature Based. Nature is is at the forefront of all of our programming. Whether learning the water cycle, studying pioneer living, or practicing using our senses,  we want students to understand, learn from, and to personally connect to nature during our programs. Therefore, just as we should be respectful of each other, students are expected to be respectful of nature as well.
  • S: Safe. We want to foster a physically and emotionally safe space to learn. All programs should be safe for students, safe for teachers, safe for plants, and safe for our animal ambassadors.

KNC school programming  primarily serves preschool/daycare aged children through elementary school, but we also offer programs and field lab experiences for up to 8th grade, as well as customizable programming options for every grade level.

Common topics in school programs include animal classification, plant parts/life cycle, animal life cycles, ecological relationships, habitats, adaptations, natural resources, human impact, and natural cycles and patterns. Our programming is focused primarily on environmental science and Michigan history, but we are also able to provide customizable opportunities for english and arts classrooms.





Programs by Grade Level

Kids at KNC

Our specially-designed programs are listed below by grade level. 

Pre-K & Kindergarten 
Grades 1 & 2 
Grade 3
Grades 4 & 5
Grades 6, 7, & 8
High School

Self-Guided Activities

Frequently asked questions about KNC programming

Contact: Bianca Anderson, Program Registrar
(269) 381-1574 ext. 24



2018 Script Changes

KNC’s school programming has been undergoing changes since the moment the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were announced. Over the course of the next school year, starting fall 2018, we’ll begin launching the results of our revision efforts: updated, revitalized, and exploration based programming for preschool through 8th grade.

If you’ve worked with us before, you might notice a change in our program offerings. The heart of the programs you love will remain the same, but in order to better support our teachers and the science standards they face, we’ve made a concerted effort  to ensure discussion, learning cycles, and student based learning are at the core of our curriculum design. We’ve also made the difficult decision to cut programs that were not KNC mission critical, or that had content that too similarly overlapped with another existing program.

As part of our program revitalization process, two of our staff were selected to become certified BEETLES leaders at the Lawrence Hall of Science’s BEETLES Leaders Institute, and are training the rest of the KNC team in this framework. A BEETLES approach to outdoor education is both research based, and  is shown to be comprised of best practices in outdoor education; furthermore, the format and activities support NGSS. The Kalamazoo Nature Center’s education department is one of the first non-residential programs in the country to be selected for this training, and we are thrilled to be incorporating BEETLES into our environmental education programs.

While change can be challenging to accept, the Next Generation Science Standards has been an invitation for KNC educators go back to our roots and focus on what we do best: connecting children with nature.


Why Outdoor/Environmental Education? 

Teaching in the Arboretum

There is a seemingly endless number of resources and studies available that argue in support of environmental education and outdoor learning, and all of its amazing benefits. We’ve included a few favorites in the links below for your perusal, and will continue to contribute to this resource list over time.

Website Resource Suggestions:

BEETLES: Infusing outdoor science programs with research-based approaches and tools to improve science teaching and learning.

Classroom Engagement Study in Frontiers in Psychology

"Outdoor Lessons Boost Classroom Engagement," from Teachermagazine.com

"About EE and Why it Matters," from North American Association for Enviornmental Education

Social-Emotional Environmental Education Development Framework from International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education