Eleven years ago, Michigan State University Extension developed the format for the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program. And eleven years later, it continues to maintain enhanced new programming each year.
The Life of Lake Superior Youth Program brings children, aged 9 to 14, and adults together to explore their community and appreciate the opportunities that exist nearby in the arts, natural resources, history, culture, recreation and careers, which have relevance for children living along the Lake Superior shoreline. The option to have a parent or grandparent participate with their children in every activity is one of the distinctive features of the program. This year, 51 youth participated along with 15 parents/grandparents.
Presented by MSU Extension in Alger County, the 2011 program took place on four days and four different sites in July. A series of “workshops on the move” included:
July 7: Attendees received sailing instructions then sailed in Munising Bay. Staff members from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, part of the National Park Service, gave a demonstration in the Bayshore Marina in Munising on personal flotation devices.
July 13: Participants learned about geomorphology (which I’m told is the study of landforms), sport fishing and logging at Kingston Plains and Kingston Lake. As part of the fishing experience, Ron Kinnunen, Sea Grant senior district Extension educator, brought a collection of aquatic invasive specimens. He talked about fish anatomy while dissecting a Lake Superior whitefish. Kids were particularly enthralled with a large stuffed and mounted Asian Carp that he brought along. Incidentally, Ron helped design the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program at its onset and has contributed every year by teaching something related to his current Sea Grant research.
July 19: Attendees helped plant 5,000 native wildflower plugs as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s work to restore native plants at Grand Island National Recreation Area. At another site, one of the island resident’s summer home, youth went on an exploration hike and did card loom weaving, incorporating birch bark, leaves, grasses and driftwood.
July 27: Participants paddled a 24-foot voyageur canoe in Munising Bay, learned about the area’s history at the Alger Heritage Museum, did a re-enactment skit at the fur traders’ cabin and watched a blacksmith demonstration.
The event closed with an evening family fish boil celebration at the Alger Heritage Center, July 27.
Healthy meals and snacks are part of each day of the program. Vicki Ballas, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education) program associate, designed the “Captain Nutrition” component. In the past, healthy meals and snacks were always a critical part of the program. But when Vicki joined the Alger County staff, her creativity and interest in kids and nutrition, led to making the meal something the kids would be involved in preparing. All foods served are those that youth easily could teach their families to make at home. And before each meal or snack time, Vicki teaches them what they are preparing, including all food groups and making half their plates fruits and vegetables. The Captain Nutrition component of the last three years has truly enhanced the overall program.
Since 2000, MSU Extension has partnered with more than 35 community services and their professional and technical staff to deliver unique workshops each summer. About 40 adult volunteers annually provide their services as presenters, mentors or community partners. The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service actively participate in program planning as well as hosting Life of Lake Superior activities.
Joan Vinette, MSU Extension educator in Alger County, attributes the program’s success to its dedicated volunteers and collaborators.
Joan says, “It takes an intense effort to bring together all the logistics. But the rewards are in watching kids (together with peers or a parent or grandparent) enjoying outdoor learning at different venues that highlight natural features unique to Alger County. Youth get to experience recreational opportunities, scientific research, economics, cultural heritage and art that influence life along the shore of Lake Superior.”
Visit the Life of Lake Superior Facebook page to view many more photos and some videos.