Explore nature at the Nature Nook

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 23, 2014

 West Bloomfield resident Noriko Nambu and her 4-year-old son, Kosei, look at skeletons of animals at the Nature Nook open house Sept. 8.

West Bloomfield resident Noriko Nambu and her 4-year-old son, Kosei, look at skeletons of animals at the Nature Nook open house Sept. 8.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission held an open house for its Nature Nook Sept. 8, highlighting the unique ways teachers and residents can utilize the resource.

The Nature Nook, which opened in August 2013 in the recreation activities center, is the commission’s indoor nature center and features hands-on stations to teach about Michigan’s nature.

While the commission holds scheduled family programs at the Nature Nook, like Night Creature and Animal Friends, the nook is available for teachers and residents to rent.

Naturalist Lauren Azoury said the Nature Nook is an “underutilized local resource” and a great field trip option, since it includes an interactive nature talk and  walk.

Azoury aligns her nature talks with Next Generation Science Standards, which are the latests K-12 science standards developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Every grade’s nature focus is different, however. For instance, second-grade classes study plants, while kindergarten students focus on observable characteristics, she said.

“Depending on the grade, we customize the presentation to what they’re working on in the classroom,” Azoury said.

Teachers can coordinate the nature talk topic, and depending on the season, Azoury said, she can coordinate field trips to the season. If teachers choose to do an autumn field trip, Azoury said, she would discuss autumn and what Michigan animals are doing to prepare for winter, whether they are hibernating, migrating or staying in the state.

Azoury said that in addition to class field trips, she has also held programs for families, and Boy and Girl Scout troops.

The Nature Nook has three live Michigan animals — an eastern box turtle, a red-eared slider turtle and a yellow-spotted salamander — that are considered the Parks and Recreation Commissions’ animal ambassadors.

“The box turtle usually steals the show. She likes to walk around,” Azoury said.

Because the Nature Nook is an easy, local trip, coordinating transportation is not as challenging, but if a teacher cannot take a class to the Nature Nook, Azoury said she can pack up the live animals and biofacts — mounted animals, feathers and fur — and put on a talk at the school.

“We can bring nature inside to their classroom so they still get the hands-on element,” she said.

But the Nature Nook is not just for school field trips. Residents can book the site for a two-hour birthday party for up to 16 kids. The first hour of the party is reserved for a nature talk and either an outdoor game or craft, and the second hour is dedicated to cake and presents. The Parks and Recreation Commission supplies the goody bags, cups, cake plates, napkins and decorations. The Nature Nook birthday parties are green parties — the Parks and Recreation Commission uses reusable items and provides recycling.

“The only things they need to bring (are) the kids and the cake,” Azoury said.

During the fall and winter, the birthday child can choose from four different themes: Turtle Power; Scales & Slime; Fur, Feathers, Fins; and King or Queen of the Forest. During the spring and summer, kids can choose from those themes, as well as Pond Palooza and Insect Safari.

The Parks and Recreation Commission will host two live animal shows at the Nature Nook. Night Creatures will be Oct. 27, and Animal Friends will be Nov. 15.

“I think the best part of our nature programs are that they’re low cost. They get an evening of fun at a low cost, but they’re also learning something,” said Meagan Kurnat, public information officer. “There’s so many fun facts you pick up, even as adults. It’s not just for kids. Everyone can enjoy it.”

For more information about the Nature Nook, visit www.westbloomfieldparks.org. To schedule a nature field trip or birthday party, call naturalist Lauren Azoury at (248) 451-1917.