Please note: The main exhibit hall will be closed Monday May 15Friday June 23 to install the new exhibit, opening June 24!
Thanks for your patience, we hope you’ll visit FIRE: Rekindling Land and People.

FIRE: Rekindling Land and People
FIRE: Rekindling Land and People

New Exhibit Opens June 24 in the KNC Exhibits Hall

Fire, central to human evolution and our relationship with the environment, is both an ancient force in our history and of pressing modern significance. By centering traditional indigenous fire knowledge and KNC’s participation in contemporary prescribed fire practices, this exhibit will help visitors to explore the role that fire disturbance plays in supporting healthy ecosystems and the relationship humans have had with fire over millennia. A key feature of the exhibit will be artist Ethan Turpin’s immersive art installation, Walk Into Wildland Fire, placing the viewer at the heart of a wildland fire.

The Kalamazoo Nature Center is a leadership presence in the Michigan prescribed fire community and many of the burn practitioners working in prescribed burns across the state participated in KNC’s burn program at some point in their careers. Jim Marshall, retired Biologist for the USDA National Resource Conservation Service has been volunteering with the KNC to assist with prescribed burns for nearly 20 years. Jim believes “Prescribed burning is incarnational, it is evidence that our earth, our world, has an ability to renew itself again and again and from the ashes this brand new healthy ecosystem arises.”

Jim acknowledges that today, fire has caused a misplaced fear in people and is underutilized as an ecosystem management tool. “Fire always has a lesson to teach us and we don’t have to fear it, we have to be respectful of it. Operating in a mode of fear is exhausting but operating in a mode of respect is enriching it allows transformation to take place.”

Jim Marshall
Jim Marshall works on a prescribed burn

Working closely with many tribal entities during his career allowed Jim to find deeper meaning in this work, “their view of fire has brought me to a place that I really love.” “The benefits of prescribed fire (date back) 15,000 years. As the ice margin retreated and the Wisconsin era glaciation drew back… tribal people followed that ice margin back for hunting… and when they started to settle in those areas, they used fire to manage the landscape.” “Native Americans (are) keen observers of the landscape … they knew that if they burned … that landscape would go from a dusky brown … to black and all of that sunlight would come down and it would warm the soil that much quicker and so they used fire in the spring in the fall to extend growing seasons.”

Introduced to prescribed fire as an observer of the KNC fen burn in the early 2000’s, Jim quickly realized he wanted to actively participate. Since then, Jim has completed many hours of training offered through KNC and the Lake States Fire Consortium and has worked along two leaders in the field that he praises for their expertise and guidance, KNC’s Ryan Koziatek, Stewardship Director and Michelle Richards, Natural Resource Manager for Fort Custer Training Center.

Witnessing both Ryan’s and Michelle’s expertise as burn bosses and working alongside the highly trained KNC crew is one of the reasons Jim loves doing this work. “I love to burn because of the relationships, we are like a family because we trust each other with our lives quite literally and so I do it because I love building really strong intense relationships with people I can trust.” Hear more about Jim’s story and others on the KNC’s podcast Off the Trail. Jim is featured in episode three: Bring your own Blowtorch.

Visit FIRE: Rekindling Land and People to learn more about stories like Jim’s and explore the role that fire disturbance plays in supporting healthy ecosystems. KNC is working along with local and regional tribes to include indigenous voices and allow visitors to learn about the relationship that humans have had with fire over millennia. On view June 24, 2023 through February 2024.

Art Drawn From Nature

Art Drawn from Nature II: Migration

Now open in the Glen Vista Gallery
Ten local artists explore our relationships with the natural world, birds, and how humans migrate and adapt in the shifting world of climate and social change.

Visit Arts at KNC >

KNC Exhibits

Kapla Blocks

Creative Constructions

Young builders can create with Kapla blocks as they draw inspiration from examples of natural and human structures, including some of the original architectural drawings by Alden B. Dow. A growing photo gallery will document the inventive structures that visitors create. 



Explore samples of pond water and other intriguing details of the natural world using a microscope. An accompanying monitor will allow multiple people to investigate life on a small scale. 


Viewing station

Reading Corner  

The reading corner includes comfy spots to curl up with a book and includes some of the most visually engaging and eye-opening  books on science and ecology available for children and adults. 


Arts in the Expedition Stations

Arts and the Curious Cabinet

Designed to spark wonder, the Art Station and Curious Cabinet will give visitors a chance to try out a variety of art materials and explore fascinating objects from the natural world as inspiration for their artmaking. 



Inquiry Backpacks

Inquiry Backpacks

Provisioned with an essential set of tools for ecological inquiry, each backpack can be checked out from the Visitor Center’s Guest Services desk to extend visitors’ engagement with the natural world. 



Nature’s Playground

Water features at Nature’s Playground are open Saturdays and Sundays in September during Visitor Center hours!

Have fun exploring and enjoy the seasonal changes at Nature’s Playground, located in the Arboretum. Relax as you watch your kids play in the stream and water tower, build forts, and wander through the natural play areas. Better yet, join in the fun!

Nature’s Playground is open during KNC grounds hours and is included in regular KNC admission. Water features and restrooms are available weekends in September during Visitor Center hours. See current hours >

Eastern Screech Owl at KNC

Animal Ambassadors

KNC’s Animal Ambassadors program serves as an important reminder of the impact we have on the natural world. Get involved by participating in an Animal Ambassadors program, visit the animals on exhibit at the Visitor Center, or symbolically adopt an animal. Read more >

Heron Sculpture

Arts at KNC

Take in an exhibition in the Glen Vista Gallery, take part in a workshop, support local artists at the Buy Local Art & Gift Fair, or explore sculpture in the Arboretum – there’s always something amazing to see at KNC!  Read more >