Science, Nature & Animals: Hands-On Learning in Metro Detroit

By: Scott Davis | September 3, 2014

Astonishingly enough, it is already September. The leaves are getting ready to change, football is here and the kiddies are back in school. Speaking of school, it was not a very long time ago when I was a young pup starting a school year, so I am aware it sometimes takes a few weeks to get back into “school mode” after a long summer vacation.

Say, I have an idea. Why not help your youngsters get back in the swing of things by taking them to a learning center, hands-on facility or educational institution of sorts? I understand this may be a hard-sell, as the last thing a child or teenager wants to do is something educational when they’re not in school, but they will thank you later. Well, most of the time. Here are a few places to consider:

Michigan Science Center is located at 5020 John R. St. in Detroit. It is a well-known and fun museum. The hands-on exhibits and shows are designed so that children and their families are not only learning, but having fun while doing so. The exhibit galleries include “Space,” “Health and Nutrition,” “Motion” and “Engineering.”  You may take a tour of each on the website. Let’s not forget about the IMAX Dome Theatre! It is always showing educational, yet entertaining films, such as “Journey to the South Pacific.” Plus, MiSci is always coming up with new and exciting temporary exhibits. The coolest part, in my opinion, has to be the Dassault Systemes Planetarium. MiSci is the ideal place to take your kids for not only an educational experience, but a fun experience they will never forget. Check out the admission prices and hours.

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, 220 E. Ann St., Ann Arbor, states its mission as a place to “inspire people to discover the wonder of science, technology, engineering, art and math.” Seriously, this place is really cool. There are a plethora of exhibits on display, including “All About You,” where you can learn about the human body and measure your physical fitness, “Legacy Gallery,” where you can learn how to use simple machines and how the Internet works and “Michigan Nature,” where you can hear and see samples of the sights and sounds of our beautiful state. Be sure to take advantage of “$5 After Five” each Thursday after 5 p.m. For full admission prices and hours, check here.

Cranbrook Institute of Science resides at 39221 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills. Although it is the first time in several months, this is not the first time I have mentioned Cranbrook in an article, and for good reason. Its interactive exhibits, special events and vast collection of artifacts offer something for any kind of interest. The Acheson Planetarium features a state-of-the-art Digistar star projector, allowing you to “experience the universe.” The “Bat Zone,” located behind the main Cranbrook building, is home to 150 bats from all over the world! Award-winning, live bat programs take place here and other nocturnal animals, such as three-toed sloths, live here as well. Animals are never taken from the wild; they were all either rescued from a bad situation or injury, or donated from zoos. There are so many programs and events here, find the right one for you! Admission prices and hours, for you ladies and gents.

Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve, 333 N. Hill Circle in Rochester, is fun for all ages. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be a hill full of dinosaur exhibits, but it is still a great place for education and fun! Naturists lead classes and programs for those of all ages, ranging from preschoolers to the whole family. Registration is required in advance for all programs and classes. Field trips and scout troop trips are encouraged and often take place at Dinosaur Hill, so if you are a teacher, or group leader of some sort, keep this park in mind. Programs and clubs like Four Feet Down the Trail (ages 2 to 4), Drama Club (ages 8 to 11), and Drama Masters (ages 12 and up) are all coming up. Also, Dinosaur Hill can bring its planetarium right to your school—with the portable Discovery Dome.  Each class and program lists its price in the description, but for your convenience, here are the park’s hours.

As I mentioned above, your child may fight you on this idea, but it will be well worth his or her time, and they will most likely realize that while there. If not, go by yourself! It never hurts to learn something new. The terms “education” and “fun” do not have to be enemies. The aforementioned list shows that.