Forest Hill Nature Area offers students opportunity for hands-on learning

Students learn about pond creatures at the Forest Hill Nature Area.

School children from Mid-Michigan get a unique chance to learn about nature in Gratiot county.

The Forest Hill Nature Area in Seville Township is leased by the Gratiot and Isabella RESD for students to get hands-on experience with science and nature.

For the last six years, Mike Morelins has volunteered with his wife to teach kids at the nature area.

"We're both retired and we like to be outdoors, and we especially love being with the kids," said Morelins, who volunteers as a guide with his wife who is a retired school teacher.

Kids from Mid-Michigan visit the nature area on field trips to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world.

It's all part of their curriculum, but a different experience than reading from a textbook.

"It's way different because you can actually explore and see examples," said Layla Addis, a 5th grader who visited the nature area on Friday.

"We caught insects and they [the guides] told us what it was and other stuff like that, it's fun," explained Landon Graham, another 5th grader.

"Even hands on activities in the classroom aren't quite like being out in it and having someone who is knowledgeable talk about what they're seeing," said Kristin Davenport, a 5th grade teacher.

"Kids, if you can show them that science isn't just chemistry and just mathematical formulas in a lab somewhere, show them it's something you can get hands on, get muddy," described Charlie Stack, a volunteer guide at the nature area.

Activities include searching for creatures in the pond, learning about different types of plants, and a Michigan history lesson.

"I think a lot of kids this day and age quite often have their whole universe centered around something that they can play with on a technological piece of equipment and Forest Hill gives them an opportunity I think to get out put their cell phones and other electronic stuff down and come out and enjoy a day outdoors learning about new things," said Morelins.

The Gratiot and Isabella RESD leased the Forest Hill Nature Area beginning in 1993.

According to their website, thousands of kids visited in the last 25 years.

With the commitment of volunteers like the Morelins, thousands more will visit in years to come.

The Forest Hill Nature Area is open to the public for anyone to enjoy for free year round.

In the winter, it's a popular spot for sledding.

More information can be found here.

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