Washington Island Art and Nature Center Encourages Outdoor Exploration

We collected grasshoppers in an old ice cream pail and punched holes in the plastic lid, placed tadpoles in our dog’s dish to watch them frantically flick their little tails. We cupped lighting bugs in our little palms and placed them in glass Mason jars, swept butterfly nets over wildflowers, chased fleeting minnows.

I felt nostalgic browsing through the Nature Center Gallery of the Washington Island Art and Nature Center (WIANC) – studying the crawfish, the garter snake, and daddy longlegs caught by local children, who proudly wrote their name and catch on cards taped to the display cases.

“The kids love to show us what they caught,” smiles WIANC volunteer Jeanne Cauldwell. “We keep them a week or so and then release them.”

The Nature Center celebrates and promotes a child’s curiosity (and sometimes fearlessness) with nature. The center also features hands-on experiences – from studying a Luna Moth’s wing under a microscope to observing the inner working of a live beehive.

A table of bones offers visitors an opportunity to see and feel shells, antlers, and the skulls of local wildlife. A naturalist is on staff during the summer to answer questions, lead nature hikes, and teach classes for all ages.

If nature isn’t a visitor’s cup of tea, the Art Center Gallery is a room away from the Nature Center Gallery, featuring a diverse collection of art by Washington Island artists. The Art Center Gallery also offers an array of art-related classes and activities – from creating tie-dye t-shirts to jewelry.

“It’s a great place,” says Cauldwell, “and keeps the kids very busy.”

The Washington Island Art and Nature Center is located at 1799 Main Road in Washington Island. The center is open 10:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 11:30 am – 4:30 pm on Sunday. For more information visit or email [email protected].

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