4-H Discovery Camp: Building on Michigan’s innovation, engineering and design history

MSU Extension educators will build on Michigan’s history by teaching sustainability and positioning families for future success.

By the year 2050, the world’s global population is expected to reach 9 billion people. Scientists are projecting that future generations will experience shortages in food, water and energy. Michigan educators have been part of this discussion through the broad reach of America’s land grant university extension system.

Michigan State University Extension is doing its part by offering programs such as 4-H Science Discovery Camp, June 24-28, at Michigan State University (MSU). This camp, now in its third year, will offer fun, hands-on, inquiry-based learning activities with the intent of igniting a spark of interest in alternative energy and sustainability. The State Science Team is planning this program to meet the goals of the MSU Extension logic model: to develop youth who think critically, problem solve and make decisions. In short, to position youth for future success by teaching them to handle the difficult challenges they may encounter in this generation.

Campers will learn more about some of Michigan’s greatest assets at 4-H Discovery Camp. They will learn why the Great Lakes State, with careful stewardship, has every resource to be successful in the future. Leading MSU bioenergy experts will discuss why experimentation with bioenergy is important to the future of both Michigan and the United States. While this may seem a bit intimidating at first, it really is not. Educators, in keeping with the 4-H hands-on experiential learning model, will take youth through this concept, using the 2010 National 4-H Youth Science Experiment, “Biofuel Blast.

Biodiversity will also be the topic when youth take a behind-the-scenes tour of MSU’s cutting-edge labs, and talk with leading experts in the fields of bioenergy and biodiversity. Kids will help conduct actual biofuel research and experiments on MSU’s campus and at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station.

Michigan Corn Growers and the Michigan Soy Bean Association have been very supportive of 4-H Discovery Camp since its inception. Both of these groups will provide presentations, peaking inquiry about the types of energies and/or vehicles that might be used in the future. For example, biofuel can be made from both corn and/or soybean crops; Henry Ford designed an auto fuel using corn as a base product. Youth will be given the tools and just enough direction to allow them to experiment with pressing soybeans into pellets, calculating density from bales of switch grass and exploring the potential for Michigan’s forestry connection.

Organizers are planning tours to Cobblestone’s Net Zero Energy Home built in collaboration with Dow Chemical Company. Last year, this was one of the most popular tours during 4-H Discovery Camp. Youth were taught that, although this home looks like most others, it is quite unique. It is connected to a utility grid and produces about as much energy as it consumes. This “net zero” consumption level is accomplished through the combination of energy-efficient construction and the home’s renewable energy technology. One of the first things campers said as the bus pulled up to the home was, “Look at the roof – it’s shiny.” This is because of one of the homes neatest features: solar shingles manufactured by Michigan’s own Dow Chemical Company.  

Campers will also participate in a 4-H Discovery Camp Engineering/Design Solar Car Challenge and explore other forms of alternative energy, including wind energy. They will visit a working wind farm and discuss wind energy with workers who repair and maintain these turbines. Employment and career preparation information is threaded through each of these tours, activities and sessions.

4-H Discovery Camp has annually been very popular, far exceeding MSU Extension’s ability to accept all campers who apply. Registration is currently open to youth ages 13 to 19 until April 19.

Space is limited and participants will be selected on the basis of their submitted applications. Applications are available online. Don’t miss this educational opportunity in Michigan’s History of excellence in innovation, engineering and design!

For more information on MSU Extension’s 4-H Discovery Camp program, contact Melanie Chiodini at 231-627-8815.