K-12 Programs

Each of the following field studies offers students the opportunity to engage in a four-hour study under the guidance of a trained environmental educator:


Environmental Awareness (K-3rd Grade)

An Emphasis on the Senses
Wetland Study

Environmental Dependency (3rd-4th Grade)

Michigan History


Beginning Ecology (3rd-5th)

Pond Ecology
Wetland Study
Wildlife Study
Outdoor Exploration

Environmental Studies (6th-8th)

Outdoor Exploration
Michigan Wetlands
Winter Water Quality
Advanced Animal Tracking by Ski
Stream Science


For more information about the environmental education program or to schedule a field trip, contact Environmental Education Coordinator Paul Wiemerslage at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (231) 587-8686.


All Programs

AnchorAn Emphasis on the Senses (Kindergarten)

Senses guide our exploration of the world. Join us for a day of activities that focus on utilizing nature to explore the five senses. Activities include a sensory hike that encourages students to explore, discover, and describe their natural world. Canada geese, tadpoles, worms, and wildflowers are waiting to be discovered!

Offered: Spring

Michigan Science Standards: LS1-1, ESS3-3

AnchorMammals (1st-2nd Grade)

Mammals are a fun group of animals to study not only for their charismatic qualities but also because students learn that they belong to this unique group as well! Students spend the day investigating what makes a mammal a mammal and later hike Au Sable’s trails in search of these furry critters and the clues they leave behind.

Offered: Winter, Spring

Michigan Science Standards: 1ST - LS1-1, LS1-2, LS1-3; 2nd - LS2-2, LS4-1

AnchorBirds (1st-2nd Grade)


Discover what makes birds one of the most fascinating creature groups on earth. Students learn the importance of special adaptations like beaks, feathers, and hollow bones and how to differentiate common birds by shape, color, and call. Games, puzzles, and hikes guide this exploration.

Offered: Spring

Michigan Science Standards: 1ST - LS1-1, LS1-2, LS1-3; 2nd  - LS2-2, LS4-1

AnchorInsects (1st-2nd Grade)

Students discover the world of insects by exploring the Au Sable pond, meadow, and forest to find insects and draw connections between each type of habitat and the unique community of insects found there. As the students examine insects, they will learn what unique characteristics make insects a special group in the animal world.

Offered: Fall

Michigan Science Standards: 1ST - LS1-1, LS1-2, LS1-3; 2nd - LS2-2, LS4-1

AnchorPlants (2nd-3rd Grade)

Discover the wonder found in the plant world. Students engage in activities such as role-playing games about photosynthesis, pollinating flowers, and creating leaf rubbings of northern Michigan’s dominant tree species. This study offers plenty of opportunities to be amazed by the micro- and macroscopic workings of plants.

Offered: Fall

Michigan Science Standards: 2nd - LS2-2, LS4-1; 3rd – LS1-1, LS3-2, LS4-2

AnchorMichigan History (3rd-4th Grade)

A favorite study of many teachers and students, Michigan History demonstrates our dependency on our environment by taking students back in time when it was easily understood where our food, water, clothing, and energy came from. Students experience life at an 1800’s fur trading post as they interact with voyageurs and traders to learn candle making, trading signs, and how to create fire using primitive methods. Later in the day, students travel to a 1900’s logging camp where they are introduced to the life of a camp cook, river hog, and foreman. During their stay, students will help bake cookies in a wood stove, use a crosscut saw, and test their burling skills on dry land. Costumed instructors guide this interactive study that brings the past to life.

Offered: Fall, Spring

Michigan Social Studies Standards: 3rd - H3.0.1, H3.0.3, H3.0.4, H3.0.5, H3.0.6, H3.0.8, H3.0.10, G5.0.1, G5.0.2, E1.0.3; 4th – H3.0.1, H3.0.5, H3.0.7, G4.0.1, G4.0.3, G5.0.1

AnchorPond Ecology (3rd Grade)


This study introduces students to beginning ecology lessons by examining how energy flows through an ecosystem to create food chains, food webs, food pyramids, and carrying capacities.  Students collect plants and animals from our near-by pond and later get a chance to examine their findings more closely using hand lenses and microscopes.  Through observation, games, and simulations, students learn how pond ecosystems work, and why wetland and habitat preservation is critical.

Offered: Fall, Spring

Michigan Science Standards: LS1-1, LS3-1, LS4-3

Wetland Study (2nd & 4th Grade)

Students undertake an exploration of the processes involved in the water cycle using games, songs, simulations, and models. Students will learn that we all live in a watershed and human actions can have wide-ranging positive and negative effects. During the afternoon, students collect organisms from Louie's pond to sample the diversity of life hidden within its waters.

Offered: Fall, Spring

Michigan Science Standards: 2nd-LS4-1, ESS2-1, ESS2-2, ESS2-3; 4th-ESS2-1, ESS3-2

AnchorWildlife Study (3rd-4th Grade)

Wildlife Study introduces students to beginning ecology lessons by leading them through a variety of habitats to conduct a wildlife census. The data the students gather are used to highlight how energy flows through an ecosystem and create food chains, food webs, food pyramids, and carrying capacities. Students learn through their census, games, and simulations that all wildlife need unpolluted food, clean water, clean air, shelter, and space.

Offered: Winter

Michigan Science Standards: 3rd – LS1-1, LS3-2, LS4-2; 4th – LS1-1, LS1-2

Michigan Wetlands (5th-6th Grade)

Demonstrations, models, and games help students understand how watersheds function and how human actions can impact water quality. Later, students compare and contrast several wetland types on Au Sable's property using a simple habitat assessment that includes chemical testing, biotic sampling, and a look at vegetative communities. Through this comparative study, students will use evidence gathered to classify wetland types.

Offered: Fall, Spring

Michigan Science Standards: 5th - ESS2-1M1, ESS2-2M1, ESS3-1; Middle School - LS4-4, ESS2-4

AnchorOutdoor Exploration (5th-6th Grade)

Develop the skills necessary to safely explore our northern environment with this outdoor adventure that combines science and survival skills into one amazing program. Students learn the basics of orienteering and compass work, explore the science behind weather to make simple forecasts, and discover the physics behind good fire building as they work to create small survival fires. Try this unit during the winter months for added excitement with snowshoes and snow!

Offered: Fall, Winter, Spring

Michigan Science Standards: Middle School - ESS2-5MI

AnchorWinter Water Quality (6th-8th Grade)

Students learn about water quality by comparing local Big Twin Lake with Au Sable’s Louie’s Pond. Students take water samples and temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen readings from both water bodies. Using microscopes, we compare the organisms found in the lake and pond. Through these tests, students determine the trophic level of both bodies of water and learn about factors affecting water quality in northern Michigan.

Offered: Winter

Michigan Science Standards: Middle School – ESS2-4

Advanced Animal Tracking by Ski (5th-8th Grade)

Experience a northern Michigan tradition with your students as they traverse Au Sable's trails by ski in search of winter wildlife. Part recreation, part science, students will combine skills to conduct a wildlife census and determine animal abundance in various habitat types. Students will answer questions, which habitats have the greatest amount of activity, which the least, and why?

Offered: Winter

Michigan Science Standards: Middle School - LS4-4, LS4-6

AnchorGroundwater (6th-8th Grade)

Students learn how groundwater - our invisible, subsurface resource - moves and behaves underground. Students measure the water table and its fluctuations through a series of unique test wells on the Au Sable campus. They also test water samples for pH, hardness, and chlorides. Groundwater models aid students in understanding how groundwater can become contaminated, how contamination moves, and how it can be cleaned up. An emphasis is placed on actions each of us can take to protect groundwater.

Offered: Fall, Winter, Spring

Michigan Science Standards: Middle School -ESS2-4, ESS3-1

Stream Science (6th-8th Grade)

Students will depart from Au Sable in Institute vans with waders and sampling equipment and will spend the day studying the nearby Manistee River. The day will begin with a stop at the logging ghost town of Deward where we will discuss the impacts of logging on the watershed. Students will conduct a stream profile to determine flow and discharge at two different locations on the river. Similarities and differences between study sites will be discussed. Emphasis is placed on watershed scale and hydrology and natural and human-caused disturbances and their effects on stream health. (35 student limit)

Offered: Fall, Spring

Michigan Science Standards: Middle School - MS-LS2-4, MS-ESS2-2, MS-ESS2-4, MS-ESS3-3