John Ball Zoo

Winter in the Woods 

This winter, register your 3 and 4 year olds for Winter in the Woods through John Ball Zoo’s education department. If you bring the warm, dry clothing, we will supply the hours of outdoor exploration, fun, and hands-on learning in John Ball Park’s wooded hillside and natural spaces!  

For young children, play is the natural and primary method of learning about themselves, other people, and the world around them. Snow can be the best toy a child will ever know. And we believe there is no such thing as an, “indoor kid.” When kids are dressed appropriately for the weather, their natural learning style emerges and we see active, happy, creative kids who, when allowed the opportunity, will have an awesome time outdoors for an hour or more! Even when the wind blows and snow piles up, children who are wearing warm, dry layers can play and play! Each week has a theme but each day is a new exploration so you are welcome to sign your explorer up for more than one session in a week!

$20/Member/Class   $22/Non-Member/Class  9:00am-11:30am

Winter in the Woods will return in December 2020. 

    Winter 2020

    Themes we may be exploring may vary from the schedule below. These experiences will be largely based on the unpredicatable, teachable moments that occur in nature with young children. With this in mind, please know that if you sign your child up for a specific date based on the theme that week, it is entirely possible that the actual content may change based on the real-life experiences the kids are having outside! Stories, activities, and animal encounters may be more centered on the theme. 

    January 7, 8, 9, 10 - Hibernation Exploration  Young explorers will be learning about where wild animals go for the winter, searching possible places animals may be hibernating. Explorers will go on the hunt for places to curl up and pretend to hibernate. Explorers will compare how animals stay warm in winter vs. how people stay warm in winter. 

    January 14, 15, 16, 17 - Scientific Senses  This week will focus on using senses to explore in Michigan. Little scientists will be encouraged to sniff, touch, listen, look, and even taste (hoping for fresh snow) their natural surroundings. In the classroom we will meet animals with super senses. 

    January 21, 22, 23, 24 - What is Water?  Investigate snowflakes under magnifiers, inspect ice, and learn about  all things water as it relates to winter!

    January 28, 29, 30, 31 - Animal Tracks  Explorers will learn how and where to look for various animal tracks in nature. They may be searching in mud, snow, or even frozen in ice. In the winter woods we will make and look for our own tracks as well. 

    February 4, 5, 6, 7 - Finding Food  Animals who do not hibernate have to keep themselves fed. We'll explore to see if we can locate anything that might serve as food for these animals. We will bring some extra treats into the woods as a special mid-winter gift for the animals. 

    February 11, 12, 13, 14 - Totally Trees  Explorers will observe a variety of different trees and begin to learn how to tell them apart by noticing the bark. We'll learn how to tell the difference betweeen a living branch or tree and one that has died. Using our observation skills we will notice the different ways that trees might grow, whether tall or short, branchy, twisted, or crooked, set apart or in groups of trees. 

    February 18, 19 - Seasonal Signs  Little scientists will be comparing different seasons based on their own memories of spring, summer, and fall, as well as their immediate observations of winter. Scientists will go in search of signs such as buds waiting for spring and dead leaves from fall. 

    February 27, 28 - Change Happens  This week pays special attention to ways things have changed in our outdoor "classroom." What looks, sounds, or even smells different than before? 

    Meet the Teacher

    Tahlia Hoogerland 

         Tahlia is a certified teacher with two degrees in Early Childhood Development and 20 years' teaching experience. She has been an instructor here at John Ball Zoo since 2017, primarily teaching Sprouts classes and facilitating Travel Zoos and Wild Encounters for school groups. Additionally, Tahlia has designed and facilitated outdoor education experiences with elementary school age children since 2009.