Campfire at 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp

Michigan 4-H’er turned volunteer supports science education at 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp

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For nine of the past ten summers, Liz Seifert has attended the 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp (GLNRC) near the shores of Lake Huron at Camp Chickagami in Presque Isle, Michigan. The experience, which first occurred when she was just 12 years old, has left an impression that will last a lifetime.

Seifert learned about the outdoor hands-on learning camp, a pre-college program of Michigan 4-H, through her 4-H shooting sports club in Macomb County in 2008. At the camp, youth explore the exciting field of natural resources with leading scientists and professionals from Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and others. In addition to discovering more about topics such as coastal and fisheries management, limnology, wildlife, forestry, geography, geology, invasive species and wetlands, youth also enjoy a variety of recreational opportunities such as hiking, fishing, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling.

After a little encouragement from her club leader, Seifert applied for and was awarded a scholarship from her county to attend GLNRC for the first time. She loved it so much that she attended for three additional years. Now, 10 years later, she says she doesn’t remember what it was like before camp.

“I was nervous the first summer I went to stay-away camp, but every kid is nervous,” Seifert explained. “You get to be outside and learn from people who are very passionate about science and natural resources and that is a great feeling. There’s really nothing else like it.”

In 2011, Seifert aged out of the camp, which is for youth ages 13 to 15, and spent the summer looking back on the memories she made at GLNRC and in her 4-H club as a youth. After reminiscing about the great experiences, Seifert decided to volunteer as a camp counselor to pay it forward to the next generation of 4-H’ers. She has been a counselor at GLNRC for the past six years.

Despite immensely enjoying her years as a youth camper, Seifert’s favorite memory of camp is from the first summer she became a counselor and was tasked with supervising the morning watershed sessions.

“Watching how much fun first-year campers were having during those morning sessions made me realize how important is was for me to be there for them and help them learn all that I learned when I was a camper.”
Seifert’s experience at GLNRC not only inspired her to give back but also inspired her area of study at Eastern Michigan University. She is currently pursuing a career in elementary education with a focus on reading and science.

“Learning in an outdoor environment really solidified my interest in natural resources and science,” she explained. “I’m hoping to incorporate what I’ve learned at camp into my future classroom to give my students the same opportunities I had.”

When asked what advice she would give to youth considering joining 4-H or attending GLNRC for the first time, she said just give it a try.

“4-H is a great place to meet new people and to experience new things. You learn so much about yourself and your interests but also how to become a leader, form new relationships with others and expand your horizons.”

Seifert will continue to help youth expand their horizons when she begins her student teaching this fall and graduates from her elementary education program in December.

GLNRC is supported by donations to the Michigan 4-H Foundation from the Dow Chemical Company Foundation and the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association, Michigan Division. Additional sponsors and partners include the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Sea Grant Extension, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, MSU Extension, Michigan Charter Boat Association, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.