Located at 2020 East Mount Hope Avenue is Fenner Nature Center, a non-profit organization that strives to connect people in the heart of Lansing to nature through exploring, volunteering and educational programs.
Program Manager Katie Woodhams said that Fenner Nature Center has a very unique non-profit relationship with the city of Lansing.
“We are considered a city park, which is pretty unusual,” Woodhams said. “So basically, the city owns the park and the property in the building, but all the programming, events festivals and school programs are run by the non-profit organization, Fenner.”
Woodhams said that the organization offers a multitude of different programs that are both free and fee-based for the public to take advantage of.
“We do toddler programs like our Knee-High Naturalists,” Woodhams said. “We also do programs like our Nature Story Hour on the weekends and spring break camps. We have programs for adults like acrylic painting classes and photography workshops. We also offer field-sketching class and some kids photography classes.”
Currently the Knee-High Naturalists program is being offered every Wednesday and Thursday for children age 2 to 5 for $5 per child. The program invites children to go on hikes, work on crafts and get acquainted with the natural world through different themes like turtles, bugs, flowers and birds Woodhams said.
The Nature Story Hour is held the first Saturday of every month for children between the ages of 4 and 6. The program free and is a family-friendly nature story hour that also includes a video.
Courtney Woods, lead naturalist and educator, said that Fenner also offers a neat program for classrooms.
“We offer a program called Annie’s BIG Nature Lesson that partners with public school districts,” Woods said. “One classroom is selected to come to the nature center and use it as their classroom all day every day. So then they have a naturalist lesson from one of us for an hour and then the teacher does their regular planned events incorporating hiking, observation and nature education.”
Woods said that Fenner offers over 200 different programs yearly for the public and that most of the funding for those programs comes from grants and generous donations.
Stewardship Team Leader and AmeriCorps member Brendon Fegan said he works at Fenner to combine his favorite things.
“I like working outdoors, working with nature and working with people,” Fegan said. “In AmeriCorps the idea is that your serving and donating a year or two of your life to serve other people, help other people and help your community which I think is a really important thing to do and so I can do that and enjoy what I do at the same time.”
Woods said she enjoys her job because she gets to watch as her students soak up knowledge.
“I love seeing kids after a program with us and how excited they are about nature,” Woods said. “I love hearing what they learned about and what they’re excited about it and how they want to continue to learn more about it. Kids with more questions and wonderings about nature is what makes me most excited, especially because we live in such an urban area that this is one of the few places where they can connect with green spaces bigger than their backyards. They’re learning and becoming curious about the world and it’s a beautiful thing.”
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