Ecology Education Center
The Willows is a community nature center offering experiential learning programs with a focus on ecology education, living history, the domestic arts, and community service.
The Willows is on a beautiful ten-acre site adjacent to a large tract of city owned nature park and open space. The proximity to these natural areas and the diverse habitats they contain, make the location of the Willows unique, and demonstrate the potential for urban areas to contain vital, productive ecosystems. This remarkable site is within the city limits, yet there is room for deer, coyote, and fox to move about. A series of ponds are rest stops for migratory birds. A short hike can reach a beaver lodge, a forest floor covered with wildflowers, or a prairie managed by prescribed burning. Willows ecology programs utilize nearby wild places as outdoor classrooms, immersing traditional science and social studies concepts in a real world context.
There is a curriculum in applied ecology found within the Willows building design. The Willows models the efficiency of renewable solar energy to inform visitors of energy and resource use. Participants can extend their ecological imagination by experiencing Michigan's first commercial straw bale building. Other design elements include local earthen plasters, a living roof, daylighting, passive solar orientation, recycled carpet tiles, 0 voc paints, and landscaping that incorporates permaculture principles. Each design element is a deliberate demonstration of our ability to build and live in a more balanced relationship with the earth.