Mackinac Island field trip: 3 places for hands-on science lessons

Published on April 21st, 2021

Last updated on May 16th, 2021



Ironically, educational visits to Mackinac Island are more popular than ever.Horse-drawn carriages give Mackinac Island a unique charm and historic feel in the absence of cars, which are prohibited.

Sure, millions of official field trips have been scratched from the calendar during the COVID-19 pandemic with many schools across the country closed to in-person learning. And even schools that are holding face-to-face classes have cancelled many off-campus excursions.

Yet, parents truly have been taking remote learning seriously. They’ve planned their own family field trips to Mackinac Island to take the place of real-world learning experiences that schools have been unable to provide.

Hopefully, COVID-19 will fade away in the coming months and school can return to normal before long. But pandemic or not, Mackinac Island will remain an ideal destination for students (and adults!) of all ages to enjoy hands-on learning while having tons of fun.

Mackinac Island is full of history including Fort Mackinac, Historic Downtown Mackinac and some of Michigan’s oldest houses.Why not plan some remote learning on Mackinac Island this spring, summer or fall? Mackinac Island is full of educational opportunities. And it just happens to be one of the world’s most beautiful and unique places, too.

For starters, the historic charm of Mackinac Island makes it an obvious place to boost your knowledge and appreciation of American history. From re-enactments of soldier life at historic Fort Mackinac to tours of some of Michigan’s oldest houses, Mackinac Island oozes history at every turn. Cars aren’t allowed, so it even feels like you’re back in the 1800s!

RELATED: Get educational resources for a variety of age-based history lessons through Michigan State Historic Parks

Beyond history, Mackinac Island also provides a natural classroom for science lessons. Here are three scientific wonders on Mackinac Island that willMackinac Island’s Sugar Loaf is a towering limestone stack and impressive sight that makes for an interesting science lesson. wow your senses and get your brain in gear:

Sugar Loaf

Many visitors make a point of seeing Mackinac Island’s Arch Rock and gawking at the incredible formation that has towered above Lake Huron for eons. It’s very impressive! So is the less traveled path to nearby Sugar Loaf, another ancient Mackinac Island rock formation that will give you an even better understanding of the geological forces at play in the Great Lakes.

You see, Mackinac Island gets its name from a Native American word that means “place of the great turtle.” It was called that because from a distance, the limestone bluffs rising out of the water make the island appear kind of like a giant turtle shell. Those limestone bluffs are the same reason the British Mackinac Island’s historic rock formations are incredible sights to see that also make interesting science lessons.decided to build Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, high above the surrounding waters. Well, Sugar Loaf is an interesting example of Mackinac Island rock being worn away by lake water that has since receded. What’s left is a 75-foot-high limestone stack that’s perfect for incredible photographs and that makes a natural science lesson at the same time.

There actually are unique rock formations all over Mackinac Island, from Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf to Skull Cave, Crack-in-the-Island and Friendship Altar. It can be quite an adventure hiking into the interior of Mackinac Island to see all the amazing sights!

Mackinac Island State Park

Lots of people know about world-famous Mackinac Island fudge. But most people don’t know that state parkland makes up more than 80% of Mackinac Island. And the state park’s rock formations aren’t the only places to learn about science. The forest offers Mackinac Island State Park makes up over 80 percent of Mackinac Island and offers hiking, biking, horseback riding and more.opportunities for lessons in everything from the identification of Mackinac Island trees and wildflowers to Mackinac Island geocaching and birding on Mackinac Island! There are dozens of types of birds to see (and hear!) on Mackinac Island. There are over 100 geocaches hidden in the woods. And there are more 70 miles of trails to explore on foot, bike or horseback.

Windermere Point

The rocky beach at Mackinac Island’s Windermere Point overlooks the ferry docks and is a fantastic place for a family picnic while watching the ferry boats come and go. It’s also a fun scientific playground of sorts. Maybe you’ve heard that Mackinac Island hosts one of the world’s most prestigious stone-skipping competitions. Well, this is where the contest takes place each Fourth of Mackinac Island offers many learning experiences in science, history, math and more for children of all ages and adults, too.July. The large, flat stones on the shore are perfect for tossing into the water and getting a first-hand physics lesson in how and why the rocks seem to walk on water. Aside from stones just right for skipping, Windermere Point gets its fair share of wind as it juts out at the edge of the harbor. The wind is ideal for flying kites on Mackinac Island. It’s an exhilarating experience, and one that comes with trial and error just like an experiment in the science lab.

RELATED: Get more ideas for Mackinac Island lessons in history, math, English and more

Of course, there are many other ways to experience hands-on science learning on Mackinac Island. Grand Hotel’s Horse Stable and Carriage Museum is a great place to see how the engineering of horse-drawn carriages has evolved through the decades, for example. And Mackinac Island’s two butterfly conservatories – Wings of Mackinac and The Original Butterfly House & Insect World – give you the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s prettiest creatures.Mackinac Island is the perfect destination for an active, family-friendly field trip full of interactive educational lessons.

While you’re here, don’t forget to sample some world-famous Mackinac Island fudge. It’s a delicious feast for your senses, for one. It’s also where you can see firsthand the fudge making process, which is both a science and a theatrical art.

Whatever aspect of science you want to emphasize, you can find a place on Mackinac Island to experience it and learn about it. Start planning your family field trip today!


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