Children’s trips teach them about Lake Superior
By JACKIE STARK
For The Daily News
MARQUETTE (AP) – The Alger County Michigan State University Extension’s Life of Lake Superior program has been teaching kids about the impact of Lake Superior on science, history, arts, culture and the local economy for the last 14 years.
A truly unique program, it’s free for anyone looking to get involved and takes kids to areas in and around Alger County, showing them a multitude of careers centered on the greatest of the Great Lakes, according to The Mining Journal of Marquette.
Students ranging in age from 9 to 14 recently made the trip to Grand Island, where they learned about a wide variety of invasives and the careers dedicated to stopping the spread.
In a lesson on aquatic invasives, students learned about alewives, big-head carp, zebra and quagga mussels and sea lampreys to name a few.
The lessons seemed to stick pretty well in the kids’ brains as they called out answers on how to help stop aquatic invasives from growing into an even bigger problem.
Shane McNally, 8, a fourth-grader at Mather Elementary School, said it was important to learn all he could about invasives because “you can know how to help stop them from spreading quickly.”
Later in the day the group learned about invasive plants on Farm Field, where they also spent time re-planting native species to help provide good habitat for the monarch butterfly, which stops on Grand Island during its long migration.
For volunteer Barb Van Syckle, the program is all about impact.
“It would be easy to grow up here and not realize the impact of Lake Superior on my life and my opportunities,” Van Syckle said. “For me, impact is a big word in the program – the impact of Lake Superior on all aspects of our lives here and then the impact we can have in a very positive way and the legacy we could leave…
“Grand Island in particular, it’s the concept of impact again, but in a different way,” Van Syckle said. “We, the students, come here to work and then they bring their families later in the summer or the following year and they can see the impact they’ve had.”
At Farm Field, the kids got down to business, getting their hands dirty as they helped transform the area into what it once was.
“They don’t come to Farm Field to be entertained,” said Joan Vinette, an extension educator who helps organize the program. “They come with the idea that they are going to be doing something.”
In fact, the afternoon activities at Farm Field had to be rearranged a bit because those kids that showed up looking to do something did so much so fast that all the holes previously dug for each plant plug were filled in about 15 minutes.
Hands-on participation is a big part of the program.
“People say to me, ‘This camp that you do…’ and I say ‘I don’t do a camp. We have an outdoor ed program,’ because we really are introducing kids to ideas of the outdoors. We’re not there to entertain them. We hope we provide entertainment by doing the things that are around us, but we also want to go behind the scenes.”
The students got a behind-the-scenes look at the Garden Peninsula wind farm when they took a tour as part of the program, getting a one-of-a-kind chance to go inside a turbine to see how it worked.
Thursday, the kids visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore they won’t just be hiking. They’ll learn how the park service runs the national lakeshore and what it takes to keep the area in pristine condition for the thousands of people that visit it each year.
The monthlong series of events takes much coordination between businesses, nonprofits and government agencies all dedicated to life in and around the water.
The program wrapped up with its annual fish boil on Thursday.