Field Trip Programs

Our Mission is to Inspire leadership and excellence to advance all walks of life, to give back to nature while receiving the outdoors benefits, learning to love nature’s beauty to mankind, mentally and physically.


School Field Trips

A field trip to Howard Christensen Nature Center is a day full of exploring, activities and observation in the most hands on program in natural education. Our field trips average a 4 hour guided education experience. We have a 15:1 student/guide ratio for effective engagement, teachers are free.

Something New with Every Visit

Located in northern Kent County and nestled behind the tall red pines, our 135 acre nature center is home to multiple ecosystems, landscapes and opportunities to explore. The center boasts a large and very deep kettle lake only a few fish can live in, and a small population of snapping turtles (including JAWS, the 80 year old resident snapper). Boardwalks will take you through bogs and swamps, past lagoons, along streams, pine plantations, a prairie and more landforms.

Our new Animal Resource Center will better house our live turtles and reptiles and offer a closer more personal interaction with some of Michigan’s critters. This is also the permanent home of our travelling reptiles. We have done our best to replicate our habitats to the natural surroundings of each animal.

HCNC’s Programs

Our programs are designed to align with the Science Core Standards and are updated annually. HCNC’s hands on approach to learning differentiates us among natural science facilities by allowing students to explore and discover; often teaching just as much as they learn. We use vocabulary words appropriate for grade and curriculum and can offer pre and post trip resources for teachers at no charge. For more information, to register your class or learn more about customizing your trip and curriculum contact the office! Registration can also be done online.

  • Fee of $5.00 per person is charged for field trips.
  • One teacher or chaperone is required per 13-16 children.
  • Additional adults are $3.00 each (this is not invoiced to the school, but we ask teacher to collect this from chaperones before arrival for efficient check in the day of your trip).
  • Lunches are 30 minutes, scheduled by our staff and take place in the interpretive center.
  • Our programs are 4 hours in length (bus arrival to bus departure, including lunch)
  • NEW policy in 2016-2017. Due to the popularity of our programs and to ensure the most effective instruction and experience, we now limit the number of parent chaperones to three (3) per 15 students. Also included in this policy is the requirement that chaperone payment be collected by the teacher in charge prior to the field trip. If you have a special circumstance or request please contact the office

Program Descriptions

Grade 1
“Planet Full of Homes”

All living things have a “home and a family” is the primary concept students learn. As they explore such natural habitats as a pond, field, and hardwood forest (homes), they will discover the importance of food, water, air and space for plant and animal survival. Students will also see evidence of the different stages of plant and animal life cycles (families).

Grade 2
“How’s It Growing?”
Students will take a discovery hike with an emphasis on plants and their life cycle. Students will also observe sources of water at Howard Christensen Nature Center with an emphasis on the relationship of plants, animals and people in our watershed.

Grade 3
“Secrets of Survival”
Outdoor and indoor studies give students an opportunity to observe physical characteristics of native plants (flower, stem, roots & leaves) and animals (ex: backbone, body covering, limbs). Students will identify renewable and nonrenewable natural resources with an emphasis on ways that humans are conserving resources to improve “human survival.”

Grade 4
“Go with the Flow” (of Energy)
The concept of a “web of life” is explored with an emphasis on the flow of energy. While hiking students will search for and identify producers, consumers, decomposers, predators, prey and more. Students will be introduced to behavioral adaptations as a means of survival, and reflect on human interaction (or interference) with the food web.

Grade 5
“Behaving Like Animals”
An animal’s behavior and physical characteristics help it survive. Students explore these traits and examine how they are influenced by the environment and genetics. Examples of extreme changes in environmental conditions (fire, timber harvest, etc.) can be explored and discussed.

Grade 6
“It’s All About Relationships”
All organisms interact and form living communities within ecosystems. Students will discover different communities within ecosystems (forest, oak savannah, field/prairie, wetlands) and how the relationship of the land and living organisms changes over time. Students will study relationships between living organisms (competition, parasitism, symbiosis) and also explore how humans affect change, purposefully and accidentally.

Grade 7
“Star Creatures”
Students will discover how plants use photosynthesis to capture and utilize energy from Earth’s closest star … the sun. Students will explore the role of plants as producers and their ability to change environments through succession habitats.

Seasonal Program Adaptation
(the following is the adaptation applied to the grade level curriculum listed previously). Educational Tours

One of our favorite past times here at HCNC. We do need about 6 good inches of snow to snowshoe. This can be added in to any school field trip for no cost. Of course we do encourage trying out one of our “Serious Snowshoe” classes. A hit with kids, snowshoeing can even go on the road with Lily’s in the Classroom (school would need large open area for this).

Frog Catching, Butterfly Counts
Frogs, butterflies, birds and trees alike are coming to life in the spring! Help us by participating in a butterfly or bird count or simply a study of the wildlife diversity at HCNC. Watch as they build their new homes and start their families. Identify several species of frog, turtle, bird and mammals as we learn of their busy spring time preparations.

Migration, Falling Leaves
At a time of year when some of the greatest beauty is found, the “end of life” is eminent. As leaves fall and grass dies out, what really happens? Do the trees die, where are all the animals? Answers to questions like this are answered as students observe the changes taking place in the fall. Much like the reverse of all springs hard work, we discover if it really pays off for nature. Other Programs-Perfect as Field Trip Add-ons, Scout Badge Workshops, Club Outings and More

Field Trips, Tours, Scouts, Youth Groups, Clubs

Contact us for specifics on any current area of interest or study for your class. We have more than four dozen “tour options” with abbreviated core curriculum for multiple scout badges, team building activities for youth groups and guided birding, photography and more. HCNC is always adding to our curriculum, and would also be more than happy to welcome guest instructors for special events.

All nonprofit groups are offered one free night at Camp Lily’s Retreat Center when a 2 hour service project is performed during your stay. Camp Lily’s is perfect for your group with a group campground and large mess hall and meeting rooms! Currently the site of our organic gardening program, this secluded getaway has direct access to the entirety of the property.

Information and Registration

Howard Christensen Nature Center grounds are open to the public, 7 days a week, year round at no admission cost.

Registration Information

To register your field trip or Lily’s In The Classroom visit, you may register online below. If you prefer to register by mail, email, or phone, please prepare the following information and complete the form below.

  • Date Preferences (select at least two just in case)
  • Name, address, phone number of School AND Contact person name and email address
  • School name and district
  • Grade Level
  • Program Selection
  • Anticipated number of students
  • Arrival and Departure Times (9:30am – 1:30pm is the most common)
  • Special needs and request
  • Email contact with person coordinating event and phone number (preferable direct line)

The contact teacher will be sent a confirmation packet that will include:

  • Confirmation form for teacher to verify registration details and return to HCNC via courier
  • A Concept Statement to be taught and Behavioral Objectives
  • Pre-trip Activities to prepare students for their education experience at HCNC
  • Instructions for dividing students into small groups prior to coming to the Nature Center
  • Post Trip Activities

Download our Brochure Printable Registration Register Online

Visit Us!
16190 Red Pine Dr. Kent City, MI 49330
(616) 675-3158

Admission Fee
Non-Members: $3/person
Members: FREE

Interpretive Center Hours
Mon-Thurs: Closed
Fri – Sun: 11am – 4pm
Hiking all days during daylight hours


Visit Us!
16190 Red Pine Dr. Kent City, MI 49330
(616) 675-3158

Admission Fee
Non-Members: $3/person
Members: FREE

Interpretive Center Hours
Mon-Thurs: Closed
Fri - Sun: 11am - 4pm

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