Empowering youth to change their world: Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp

Youth from across Michigan will come together this summer in Presque Isle to grow as leaders in Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship.

The Bag Monster talking with campers about plastic pollution.
The Bag Monster talking with campers about plastic pollution.

Youth ages 12-15 from across Michigan will come together Aug. 5-11, 2018, in Presque Isle, Michigan, to grow as leaders and explore Great Lakes fisheries, woods and wildlife, inland fisheries, northern Michigan watersheds and environmental stewardship. Agencies, organizations, volunteers and special guests invested in Great Lakes research gather with Michigan State University and MSU Extension staff to make the 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp a life-changing experience for 70 youth.

Each year there are returning and new sessions. Returning sessions for 2018 are “Great Lakes/Inland Fisheries” and “Woods and Wildlife of Michigan. New this past year were “Marine Archeology,” partnering with the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, Michigan, and “Growing Environmental Stewards” partnering with the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative is a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to place-based stewardship education. The program connects youth with their communities through real Great Lakes issues while meeting Michigan’s education standards.

Youth do more than learn science at the 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp. They apply science in real-world situations contributing to real research with scientists from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Youth leave camp each year with the knowledge and concrete examples of how they can change their communities, homes and school, reducing our impact on the Great Lakes. In 2017 during the “Growing Environmental Stewards” session, youth were introduced to a special guest, a Bag Monster. The Bag Monster carries with it over 500 single-use plastic shopping bags— the number of bags the average person uses each year.

The Bag Monster helped youth learn about the impact of single-use plastics on our Great Lakes, landfills and our land. The Bag Monster also helped youth understand that plastic is down-cycled, having a limited lifespan before it becomes trash. Plastic can often only be recycled only a couple times before it is useless and becomes trash, while metal and glass can be recycled almost forever.

The environmental stewardship session discussed ways youth can educate their communities about Great Lakes issues from plastic to invasive species, then challenged each youth to develop an action plan to implement in their communities during the 2017-18 year. Youth developed plans including outreach displays about plastic at their local library or county fair, planting trees to reduce air pollution and increase green spaces, increasing awareness of local invasive species, increasing awareness of local threatened species and increasing bee colonies and the awareness of the need for pollinators. MSU Extension and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network will reach out to campers throughout the 2017-18 year to help them implement their action plans.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

To learn more about MSU Extension, visit the MSU Extension website. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. State St. Harrisville, MI 48740, or visit us online at our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page or Alcona County Extension office page.

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