Stepping Stones program – Part 2

The impact of the Stepping Stones program can increase youth interest in STEM topics.

Members of the Healthy Kidz Incorporated youth development organization participated in an overnight camping experience at Island Lake Recreation Area this summer as a part of the Stepping Stones outdoor education program.

The morning after the group’s overnight camping experience in rustic cabins and tents I arrived bright and early to see how the youth survived their first overnight camping experience.  Much to my surprise I was welcomed with positive comments and feedback about their camping experience.  I was amazed that a large number of the youth had not been to sleep because they were exploring the woods in the dark with their flashlights and lanterns, observing the stars, listening to the various sounds and silence, and sitting around the camp fire sharing experiences and telling stories the night before.  They shared that their newly acquired skills were utilized during their camping experience and they felt great about their ability to do so. 

This group was extremely organized. One group of youth was busy preparing breakfast, while another group was cooking and another group was cleaning the cabin. The last group was cleaning the grounds and packing up the equipment.  It was amazing to observe a group of young people enjoying the great outdoors and functioning as a well-organized team. 

After a enjoying a great outdoor cooked breakfast by these first time campers and listening to the various stories it was clear that they enjoyed this experience.  When asked what would make the experience better?  It was agreed upon by all that the cabin and site needed power.  When asked why they need power for an overnight camping experience they responded they needed power to charge their telephones, I-Pads, and computers and to plug in their hair curlers.  When the park manager, Karris Floyd, and I talk about their comments we began to think about how we could provide power to the sight.  Our thoughts were how we could engage urban youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) project to address their concerns. We pursued this challenge by inviting the leaders from Healthy Kidz and the Baldwin Center of Pontiac, Mich., another program that participated in the Stepping Stones program day and overnight camping experience. We discuss how we could develop an opportunity for these young people to address the power issue at the cabins.  It was agreed upon that this was an opportunity to address the needs of tomorrow by encouraging the development of the next generation of scientists, technologist, engineers and mathematicians required to build excellence in Michigan’s knowledge based economy.  Project utility, a collaborative effort between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension and other partners,  will a align the objectives to meet the Next Generations Science Standards.

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