Students have gone on field trips to Mackinac Island for years, taking a break from the classroom for experiential learning in one of Michigan’s most historic places. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed or even cancelled some of those trips to Mackinac Island.
But just because organized school outings are up in the air during the ongoing pandemic doesn’t mean your family can’t make an educational visit to Mackinac Island. In fact, with so many schools holding virtual classes this fall, now may be a great time to sneak away to Mackinac Island for some real-life learning the entire family can enjoy.
Of course, not every family has a teacher. So, we’ve done the homework for you and come up with several points of learning for kids of any age. Here are several ways to connect what you can see on Mackinac Island with subjects kids are learning about in school:
Alongside “beautiful,” “relaxing” and “peaceful,” “historical” is one of the most popular words to describe Mackinac Island. It’s no wonder – the entire place feels like you’ve gone back in time! Because there are no cars on Mackinac Island and people get around on foot, by bike or in a horse-drawn carriage, the whole atmosphere feels like the olden days. There also are several historic sites on Mackinac Island:
- You can visit British Landing near the northern tip of Mackinac Island to see where the redcoats arrived during their invasion in the War of 1812, when they wrested control away from the Americans. You can also venture up into the island’s interior to see the battleground where the Americans tried unsuccessfully to win back control just a couple years later. Both Fort Holmes, which sits atop the island’s highest point, and Fort Mackinac are testaments to the struggle for power in the Upper Great Lakes during the early years of the United States.
- Not only does Fort Mackinac feature the oldest building in all of Michigan, but it also gives visitors a glimpse of life as a soldier in the late 1800s. The 240-year-old Fort Mackinac has been totally restored and hosts daily demonstrations including real cannon blasts that are popular among kids and adults alike.
- Take a walk through Historic Downtown Mackinac and tour the McGulpin House to see what life was like in the 1820s when Mackinac Island was an important fur-trading hub. Or visit the Biddle House, which is being remodeled and scheduled to open later in 2020 as home of the new Mackinac Island Native American Museum, peek inside historic Mission Church or stroll through the island’s neighborhoods and admire the beautiful examples of 19th-century Victorian architecture.
Speaking of history, Mackinac Island is full of geologic wonders that offer hands-on lessons in natural history. The iconic Arch Rock is a popular attraction, but there are many more to see including Sugar Loaf and Skull Cave, to name just a couple. You can try to wiggle your way through the Crack-in-the-Island or snuggle up inside Eagle Point Cave, too. The limestone features were shaped and carved by rising and falling water levels over hundreds and thousands of years.
In late September through October, Mackinac Island State Park becomes a gorgeous laboratory for fall colors with an entire forest of trees on display. The island’s butterfly conservatories and botanical trail are two more places where you can learn about and appreciate the natural world. And you can get a physics lesson all around Mackinac Island by skipping stones and learning how and why they seem to walk on water.
Every school day needs snack time, and world-famous Mackinac Island fudge makes for a memorable treat. Plus, you can watch a fudge making demonstration, which is a science in itself. For lunch, there’s a wide variety of places to eat on Mackinac Island, from upscale restaurants where you can refine your table manners to casual waterfront cafes where you can introduce your kids to seafood to the best picnic spot in all of Michigan where you can spread out a blanket in the shadow of Father Jacques Marquette.
From Marquette Park, it’s an 8-mile bicycle ride around the outer rim of Mackinac Island. That makes for a nice physical education break, but also an opportunity to use mile markers along the way to make calculations about how fast you’re pedaling or how many feet you’re traveling every second. You can visit one of Mackinac Island’s three historic cemeteries and figure out how long it’s been since some of the island’s pioneers have been laid to rest. Or take a look at your receipt from the fudge shop and calculate the price per ounce for that sweet, sugary goodness.
There are endless nooks and crannies on Mackinac Island where you can escape to read a good book. There also are some literary sites worth a visit including Anne’s Tablet, which is a memorial to 19th-century author Constance Fenimore Woolson, who wrote a novel set on Mackinac Island, and the Grand Hotel, which is featured prominently in “Somewhere in Time,” a 1980 movie about romance and time traveling that stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
Just as every school day needs snack time, every school day needs recess. And there’s no shortage of things to do on Mackinac Island! More than 80 percent of the island is a state park, which makes it a huge playground that’s free for you to explore. In addition to riding a bike around the island, you can also kayak in the water, hike or bike some of the island’s 70-plus miles of trails, play catch or kickball on Mackinac Island’s historic ball field or pump high into the air on the swings at one of the island’s playgrounds.
Whether you come to Mackinac Island on a family field trip for just a couple days or for an entire week, you can find a comfortable home base at any of the island’s places to stay. Mackinac Island is home to a wide selection of unique resorts, hotels, B&Bs, cottages and condos.
Find your Mackinac Island place to stay and start planning a fun, educational trip today!