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The DNR now offers fourth-grade classes free field trips to many parks

View over a lake with wetland grasses, a wooden walkway with people observing the water, and trees in the background
Sehvilla Mann
The Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery in 2018

Michigan has joined a handful of states and the National Park Service in an effort to get kids outside.

Kids in Michigan have a new opportunity to get outdoors.

Nature Awaits is a free field trip program for fourth grade classes in Michigan. Launched in April by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, it provides a bus reimbursements of up to $1000 for public schools.

Portage Central Elementary teacher Laura Richardson took her class to Warren Dunes.

“If anybody ever says anything about a free field trip that's hands-on and, like, an experience the kids wouldn't normally have, like, why would you say no?” she asked.

Richardson's son Tobin is a fourth grader at the same school. 

“Climbing up the dunes was fun and also looking for Petoskey stones and other types of rocks in the lake was fun, he said.

Kaitlin Lindahl runs the tours in Southwest Michigan. This spring, locations included Wolf Lake, Warren Dunes, Van Buren State Park and Yankee Springs.

“If you come to Wolf Lake you can always get a free field trip, but the busing to get here has usually been the limiting factor," Lindahl said.
She added that the program is open to all fourth-graders... but it targets urban children, who may not have much access to nature. 

“Schools that have never once been able to come out to Wolf Lake even though their school is only 10 miles away, 15 miles away, so very close by — they were able to come out with the Nature Awaits program for the first time ever.”

The DNR is taking reservations for fall field trips.

Leona has worked as a journalist for most of her life - in radio, print, television and as journalism instructor. She has a background in consumer news, special projects and investigative reporting.