Great Lakes camp creates youth scientists

The Great Lakes Natural Resource Camp is a weeklong experience for youth that allows them to explore the outdoors in way that is fun and life-changing.

The Michigan State University Extension Great Lakes Natural Resource Camp completed another outstanding camp during July 31, Aug. 6, 2016, for 70 youth in natural resource-based science activities and experiments. This is a youth leadership camp, providing opportunities for youth to learn and discuss ways in which they can apply their learning and leadership at home in their communities, schools 4-H clubs and their own lives. Campers became “scientists” for the week where they engaged in activities that exposed them to topics that expanded their environmental knowledge, introduced issues confronting natural resources and challenged youth to become involved decision makers. Each session collectively helped youth create a greater sensitivity and understanding of the environment, while also developing a sense of stewardship to become environmentally literate citizens.

Morning sessions provided the bulk of programming and served to educate youth about important natural resource topics and issues. Sessions this year included water quality testing, early morning bird ecology, forestry and wildlife, fisheries investigation and investigating climate change. Each of these sessions provided a hands-on, experiential approach to learning that included practical applications of elements and career exploration.

The fisheries session is a highlight as each first-year camper goes charter fishing on Lake Huron. It is an early morning adventure but worth the effort as many fish are caught all week. This year’s catch included walleye, lake trout, king, pink and Atlantic salmon. It’s not just about catching fish, as youth are educated about fish adaptations, anatomy, habita, and management practices that create a sustainable population. Youth get to clean their own fish, which are served for Friday dinner. Returning campers participate in a fisheries session where they explore various fish habitats, capture fish to identify and discuss management practices. These youth are usually wet as they are in the water checking nets and exploring fish habitat.

Afternoon recreation sessions are natural resource-based, supplementing the overall theme of camp. Sessions include orienteering and wild edibles. Additional youth also participate in traditional camp activities such as swimming, canoeing and kayaking. Evening programming involves exploring environmental issues and presenting a short topic of youth’s choice to a small group of peers while developing valuable life skills such as leadership, communication, goal setting, problem-solving and many more. Each night concludes with a campfire filled with singing, stories and much laughter.

The Great Lakes Natural Resource Camp occurs the first week of August each year near Presque Isle, Michigan. This area offers diverse outdoor opportunities surrounding the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Huron. In addition, several natural resource organizations are nearby that supplement camp operations, such as the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Hammond Bay Biological Station Sanctuary, LaFarge Quarry, Thompson’s Harbor State Park, Presque Isle Lighthouse and Trout Scout and Wipe Out Fishing Charters. It is the collective contributions of all these partners that make the Great Lakes Natural Resource Camp unique and a great experience for youth.

The Great Lakes Natural Resource Camp is sponsored and conducted by MSU Extension. For information about the camp, contact me at or Laura Potter-Niesen at MSU Extension encourages participation in new experiences that are safe and expose youth to science involvement with 4-H Science: Asking Questions and Discovering Answers.

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