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Hartley Outdoor Education Center Unveils New, Innovative Virtual Field Trip Solutions for Schools
Hartley Outdoor Education Center Unveils New, Innovative Virtual Field Trip Solutions for Schools
Kelly Lyvere
Wednesday, April 21, 2021

For many Saginaw County locals, a trip to Hartley Outdoor Education Center during their youth is one they likely treasure. Since opening in 1975 under the operation of Saginaw Intermediate School District, multiple generations of family members consider exploring the beauty of Michigan’s natural resources at Hartley to be a time-honored tradition. Visitors hold fond memories of Hartley close to their hearts. However, amidst this global pandemic, Hartley needed to adapt quickly and evolve from solely providing in-person traditional ‘school field trips’ to facilitating virtual field trip solutions that are educationally innovative and interactive.

Eric Rutherford, Program Director of Hartley Outdoor Education Center, stated, “I am proud to say, Hartley is committed to supporting teachers, students, and families during this unique school year. While we cannot welcome students in-person at this time, our staff of certified educators has been working tirelessly to recreate the Hartley Experience in a virtual classroom! With a Hartley educator as their guide, students participate in interactive lessons that connect them to environmental science and the natural world in their community.” He continued, “Our virtual lessons are designed to allow students to explore and learn about specific topics in a fun, engaging manner. Each lesson integrates science, literacy, and social and emotional learning throughout the virtual experience.”

Leading up to the launch of Virtual Field Trips, Hartley’s educators spent the end of last school year appearing LIVE on Facebook to teach STEM activities and exploring the outdoors during COVID-related school closures. As a four-time recipient of the Pinnacle Award, Hartley is no stranger to creating engaging, remote lesson plans. First awarded in 2012, and again as recently as 2019, Hartley continues to be recognized by the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) for outstanding ratings on program evaluations by educators and activity directors for interactive programming. The program most inspired by these awards is French Voyageur which is still available today. French Voyageur, instructed by Paul Roose, relives a year in the life of French voyageur, Jean-Paul LeFranc and guides classrooms from Montreal to the Grand Portage in Minnesota and back. This lively course immersively teaches students the duties men had within the canoe, the food they ate, their traditional form of dress, and the purpose of their trips as voyageurs.

Hartley’s robust portfolio consists of over 25 K-5 Virtual Field Trips ranging in topics from constellations and animal structures to kinetic forces and chemistry. One class costs $50 per classroom and includes the live program and teacher toolkit (lesson plans). To view a complete list of Hartley’s Virtual Field Trips, click here.

About Hartley Outdoor Education Center
Hartley first opened in 1975 under the operation of the Saginaw Intermediate School District. With 300 acres of natural habitat, including hardwood forests, wetlands, meadows, ponds, and a creek, Hartley is home to the Coal Mine No. 8 Historical Site & Museum, Schroeder Log Cabin, Fowler One-room School, Murphy Farmhouse, Henige Log Cabin, Murphy Farm Learning Center, and a future Net Zero Greenhouse. Hartley is also the site of Saginaw County’s only identified Nature Preschool, in partnership with Saginaw ISD’s Head Start programs, located at the Murphy Farm site. In 2020, Hartley launched a robust portfolio of Virtual Field Trips to support schools as they transitioned to remote learning plans. Learn more about Hartley Outdoor Nature Center online or by calling 989-865-6295.