FIELD TRIPS TO MACKINAC ISLAND
Sometimes it’s good to take a break from the routine and step outside of the classroom. To visit a place where you can experience first-hand what you’ve been learning in school.
How about a field trip for the whole family to Mackinac Island?
Mackinac Island is home to two historic forts, iconic rock formations shaped by eons of natural history, butterfly houses, horse stables, museums, cultural trails and a state park forest full of scientific marvels. And since there are no cars on Mackinac Island, just walking around makes for a fascinating lesson in how life used to be.
Who says school can’t be fun? Here are some Mackinac Island field trip themes to consider for teachers and parents alike:
HISTORY ON MACKINAC ISLAND
Mackinac Island long had been an important and even sacred place for Native Americans. Once the British built Fort Mackinac in the late 1700s, Mackinac Island became a focal point of the Western world, too. It was the headquarters of the bustling fur trade in the Upper Great Lakes, a cultural and economic center of vital interest to the British and the Americans who battled for control of it during the War of 1812.
The original buildings of Fort Mackinac are among the most popular Mackinac Island attractions, with daily reenactments of military and civilian life on the fort as it was experienced in the late 1800s. You can also tour Fort Holmes, located atop the highest point on Mackinac Island, and stroll through Historic Downtown Mackinac sites including the American Fur Company Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, the McGulpin House and the Biddle House Mackinac Island Native American Museum. The Stuart House Museum is another interesting place to explore the past.
To get an overview of all the historic aspects of Mackinac Island, a narrated horse-drawn carriage tour is a great way to spend a couple hours.
CULTURE ON MACKINAC ISLAND
Mackinac Island gets its name from “michilimackinac,” a Native American word meaning “great turtle.” That’s how some of the original inhabitants of the Upper Great Lakes described Mackinac Island’s appearance, because it looks a bit like a turtle shell rising out of the water.
Over the years, English speakers shortened the name to Mackinac. But even though it’s spelled with a “c,” Mackinac is pronounced with an “aw” at the end. Do you know why? It’s just one of many cultural lessons to learn on Mackinac Island.
Speaking of Native American heritage, Mackinac Island is home to the Native American Cultural History Trail featuring six educational markers along M-185 around the outer rim of the island. Plus, so many Mackinac Island landmarks from Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf to Lover’s Leap and Devil’s Kitchen are the stuff of legend and explained by incredible stories that are fun to learn.
Mackinac Island also showcases centuries of religious history, a diverse variety of foods, several art galleries, a horse stables and a carriage museum. Mackinac Island also welcomes workers and visitors from many countries and cultures around the world.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION ON MACKINAC ISLAND
As much as Mackinac Island is a historical treasure, a real-life science lab and a cultural melting pot, it’s also an outdoor adventureland. Hiking, biking and horseback riding are common ways of getting around because cars are not allowed. But those are just a few of the many outdoor activities that visitors enjoy on Mackinac Island.
Want to learn how to play bocce ball or croquet? Come do it on Mackinac Island. You can also play miniature golf and tennis and go paddling and fishing. Cornhole is a leisurely way to spend an afternoon. Great Turtle Park features a basketball court, soccer field and disc golf course. Mackinac Island is home to the oldest baseball field in all of Michigan. You can even go parasailing and duckpin bowling!
And, of course, many places to stay on Mackinac Island have swimming pools that are fun for both kids and adults.
SCIENCE ON MACKINAC ISLAND
Carved over millennia by the rising and receding waters of the Great Lakes, the iconic limestone landmarks of Mackinac Island present intriguing (and picturesque!) illustrations of natural history. Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf are both selfie-worthy destinations that also present the opportunity for first-hand observation of geological science.
Mackinac Island is home to Mackinac Island State Park, which covers more than 80% of the island. There are more than 70 miles of trails crisscrossing the forest where you can find a variety of trees, wildflowers, birds and other animals. Hiking the Mackinac Island Botanical Trail is a great way to learn about the native Michigan plants and flowers in the park.
Of course, Mackinac Island is surrounded by water. And that presents even more opportunity for scientific exploration. Stone skipping and kite flying at Windermere Point are fun ways to play with physics, while getting out on the water in a kayak is a chance to experience another side of Mackinac Island.