We actually first visited the Outdoor Discovery Center to find a Geocache. During our 2 1/2 mile walk around the ODC we were so impressed with what had been done with the grounds that we returned later in the summer with our small group from church. This is a wonderful way to get families and children away from video games and TV to learning about nature and get some exercise at the same time. We recommend this place to all our friends. Keep up the good work!
I'm a college professor who loves to teach ecology, behavior and zoology outdoors, but it's a pretty tall order to come up with a great place to teach outdoors about Animal Behavior in the middle of winter in lake-effect influenced west Michigan. But because of a recent partnership formed between ODC-Greenway and Hope College (where I work), I decided to try to make use of their field station and outdoor resources for my Animal Behavior class this winter. It turned out to be the best winter animal behavior ivnestigations we EVER had in my 23 years of teaching experience here. The field station made the perfect "home base" to construct materials, convene and brief the class, warm up, store things, and even watch wildlife from inside when the weather was bad. From the home base, we were able to embark out in all directions (small groups of college students having been assigned different study areas in most cases) to set up experiments, observe wildlife, and learn how to collect data. We completed two long-term experiments that were extremely data-rich and gave my students great challenges in both animal behavior interpretatino and in data analysis. Plus we came out for several one-time events, such as an "Owling" night in late January hosted by Jamie Krupka. Because of ODCs hospitality and open-ness in letting us use all of their facilities as much as we wanted, my students were able to enjoy a much richer educational experience with real wildlife in real settings than ever before in a winter semester.
I am surprised that more people haven't found this gem. I have been to many of their "Bird of Prey Days" events, photography classes, and herb walks. All of the volunteers are open, easy to approach, well informed, and fun. To unwind I often simply walk the park for exercise and to enjoy the Raptor Center on my way home from a stressful day. They obviously take very good care of their birds. The trails aren't always perfectly groomed, but weather is often a culprit. I love the idea of the "No child left inside" program, and am impressed at how many school children they teach each year.