4-H environmental camp offers science education and fun

Campers and counselors from 30 Michigan counties had a great time while getting hands-on science and technology experiences at 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp August 2 to 8, 2009.

Campers and counselors from 30 Michigan counties had a great time while getting hands-on science and technology experiences at 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp August 2 to 8, 2009. Besides having loads of fun in the outdoors, campers at this MSU pre-college program took part in sessions that exposed them to four of the five Michigan science curriculum standards in earth science and three of five standards in biology for grades 8 to 12.

Campers rotated through five morning Great Lakes ecology exploration sessions, including Charter Fishing and Fisheries where campers went charter fishing and sampled local lakes and streams for native fish and other aquatic life, observing their habitats up close. In Coastal Wetlands, they used GPS and GIS technology to explore and map unique coastal wetland habitats along the Lake Huron shoreline and search for geo-cache sites (hidden treasures) along the way. In Shipwrecks and History, they worked with underwater archeologists to learn about exploring shipwrecks as a way to preserve the past and bring our maritime history to life. In Watersheds, campers conducted water tests and studied the samples as they learned “limnology”– the freshwater version of marine biology. In Woodlands & Wildlife, they used research tools such as telemetry equipment to track animals while learning the importance of diverse woodland and forest habitats.

These sessions – and all learning sessions throughout the week – take maximum advantage of a place-based learning approach, using “teachable moments” to highlight the ecological features and management dilemmas presented at the Lake Huron sites used in instruction. Camp instructors draw on curriculum prepared for Sea Grant Extension programs, materials from other scientifically sound environmental education sources and MSU Extension bulletins. As campers learned about Michigan’s natural resource and management issues, they also discovered a variety of careers related to the Great Lakes and natural resources. Campers are taught and mentored by MSU faculty, MSU Extension and Sea Grant staff members, and volunteers who are natural resource experts.

In the afternoons, campers picked their preferred recreation options, including kayaking, snorkeling, photography, sailing, shooting sports, a lighthouse or tall ship tour and fossil hunting at a local quarry. Special activities for returning campers included night hikes and hands-on fisheries experience on rivers and streams.

This camp is for teens entering grades 8 to 10 (primarily ages 13 to 15). The 2010 camp will be held August 1–7. The camper fee will be determined later this fall. Camp applications will be available early in 2010 from county MSU Extension offices and online at the camp Web site. Applications will be due to county MSUE offices by May 14, 2010. Space is limited, so it’s best to apply early! The camp is held at Camp Chickagami in Presque Isle, nestled between the shores of Lake Huron and inland Lake Esau between Alpena and Rogers City.

The camp’s goal is to create strong, scientifically rooted environmental stewards by getting youth to experience and study Michigan’s rich, diverse natural resources. It enables content experts and youth development experts to come together to make a life-changing difference for teens from across Michigan. It leads young people into becoming life-long environmental stewards. They also develop career and personal interests in natural resources ecology and management.

In the 2008–2009 program year, 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp was honored with two national awards. The 4-H Program of Distinction award recognizes the highest quality 4-H youth development efforts in the nation. The National 4-H and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Natural Resources Conservation Education Award is given to the top environmental 4-H program of those selected for the 4-H Program of Distinction Award.

4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp gives campers a chance to do new things they’ll remember for a lifetime and that they may never do again. One camper noted on the open-ended portion of the post-camp survey, “This camp gave me experiences that many kids my age can only dream about.” Other campers said:

  • “I learned a ton about natural resources in a fun way.” – Dan, Ingham County
  • “I’ve learned a lot about Michigan’s natural resources and how to protect them. This camp has definitely changed me for the better.” – Rachel, Chippewa County
  • “This camp has really opened my eyes to all the possibilities that 4-H and our environment have to offer. I have learned tremendously about Michigan, our natural resources and also about myself though experiences at camp. I can’t wait to come back each summer because the people and the sessions are so refreshing. I can’t keep a smile off my face when I’m at camp!” – Katy, Ingham County

To learn more about camp, check out the information and slideshow online at http://4h.msue.msu.edu/events/glnrc. You can also view photos on Facebook by searching for 4-H GLNR Camp.

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