Vacation + Education: West Michigan Summer Learning Adventures

The end of everyone’s school year was full of major changes this time around, and we were inspired to see so many educators get creative about providing distanced learning options for their students. Now that summer has arrived, many destinations throughout West Michigan are blending education & vacation options, whether it’s an in-person visit, or a new experience you can participate in virtually.

Check out our list below of some of our favorite West Michigan destinations who have found ways to combine Vacation + Education.

Online Experiences

Many organizations around West Michigan have been working hard to bring online educational and fun experiences for both children and adults.

Mackinac State Historic Parks has compiled many online experiences for you to participate in at home. Explore the history of the Straits of Mackinac and historic sites with online exhibits, exciting videos, educational materials, and more. They continue to add new content for your enjoyment.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum is offering Member Meet-ups on their website to GRPM members for free. They include topics such as family museum exploration and backyard stargazing, with meet-ups which last from forty-five minutes to an hour on a live video call. Other ways to experience the museum range from watching a live stream of their Lake Sturgeon to doing a virtual scavenger hunt. The Grand Rapids Public Museum is also looking to hear your stories and collect pictures or videos to help prepare in sharing the local COVID-19 experience with future generations.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on activity the Sandcastles Children’s Museum in Ludington has lots of tutorials for fun projects to make at home. On their Facebook page, they have weekly events to attend from home. Wacky Wednesday Science Experiments and Tuesday Puppet Shows offer ways to engage kids at home.

The Lakeshore Museum Center also offers many ways for kids to learn in an exciting way from home. From coloring pages and scavenger hunts to YouTube videos and crafts the Lakeshore Museum Center offers countless hours of at-home entertainment. 

Take the opportunity to learn about NASA through the Portage Air Zoo. Visit their Launchpad to Learning website to access games, activities, and documentary clips! 

Explore nature and learn all about cool animals from home. Visit the Critter Barn’s Facebook page for a live engaging experience every day at 11 am. See what’s happening on the farm with the baby bunnies or the quadruplet goats.

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is offering countless activities for kids to do at home. Learn about bugs, rocks, edible plants, wild animals, and so much more during their online sessions in June. Every program is accessible from a computer at home and lasts from 30 minutes to two hours. 

The Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland is also offering ways to engage kids in the outside world. Children can participate in the Backyard Series by doing various challenges and crusades in the form of multi-step projects.

In-Person Opportunities

While many places have scaled back their current offerings, there are many who are still offering in-person experiences.

For twenty-five years the Keweenaw Adventure Company has been enacting ethical business practices that today are being defined on an international scale as sustainable and/or responsible tourism. Their staff is made up of professionals, who impart their knowledge to customers thorough instruction, interpretation & storytelling, and various safety measures. Learn more and book your educational get-away today

Mission Point Lighthouse is an educational experience in itself and the surrounding area. Located in Traverse City, Mission Point not only has a historical lighthouse but also a log cabin from the mid-1800s and the Metropolis Shipwreck. It’s unclear when they will open for the season, however, they will be posting additional informative displays during this time.

Hop aboard a 77’ schooner for an educational sail around Lake Michigan in Suttons Bay Michigan. Learn about the health of the Great Lakes through hands-on science activities and help the crew raise the sails and steer the ship with Inland Seas Education Association. They hope to begin offering public sales in August.

The Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland is not only offering virtual educational activities but in person as well. Download their Parks Passport to find fun things to do at each of the parks as the trails remain open from sunrise to sunset.

Explore Saugatuck and Douglas with the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center App. Users are able to go on self-guided tours and visit virtual exhibits. 

Kids can attend Maritime Day Camp at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum. Throughout four, three-hour days students will participate in STEM activities and various games. The camp will run from June 23 to 26.

Visit Muskegon museums and make learning interactive and fun. Throughout over a dozen museums kids can explore science, learn about history, attend STEM camp, climb a lighthouse, and go on a mastodon scavenger hunt.

Check out the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s virtual Camp Curious. A variety of highly interactive, reduced cost camp options are available covering the topics of space, building, science, and even a Young Wizards Camp for learners in pre-K through high school.

Holland Area Arts Council will be offering many art camps this summer. Camps are focused on varying types of art such as painting, ceramics, music, and theatre. Check out their website to learn more about the various camps they’ll be offering.

Stop by the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids on July 15 from 10 am-2 pm for a celebration of science, technology, and math. Celebrate by visiting displays and demos and by doing hands-on activities. Visitors can learn about rocket launching, motion, gravity, and robotic creations. 

Northern Michigan University is offering Environmental Science Camp, July 12 to 18. High School students have the opportunity to learn, study, explore the Marquette area in a unique way. They will also work in the Digital Learning Design Laboratory of the Glenn T. Seaborg Math & Science Center to create a movie highlighting their experiences.

Trails remain open at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Augusta from nine to five for visitors to hike the trails and view waterfowl, game birds, songbirds, and birds of prey around Wintergreen Lake. The W.K. Kellogg Manor House grounds in Hickory Corners are open and ready for visitors to take self-guided outdoor tours as well.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is the only one of its kind dedicated to the perils of maritime transport on the Great Lakes. It is located at Whitefish Point, Michigan, site of the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior. This summer, they plan to open on June 15, and stay open through October 31. When you visit, feel free to walk the beach, watch the ships pass, and enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Superior from the Seney National Wildlife Refuge.