The diamond in the middle of the river

Outdoor and environmental education opportunities to be available for youth on Belle Isle.

The 985 acre park known as Belle Isle located in the middle of the Detroit River will become a part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) parks system within the next ninety days, according to Michigan State University Extension. Belle Isle will become the 102nd state park managed by the MDNR under a 30 year lease agreement. What does this mean? It means that Belle Isle has a pledge from Gov. Rick Snyder to invest 10-20 million dollars in the first three years of the state management of Belle Isle for upgrades and improvements. The director of MDNR, Keith Creagh, is soliciting support and assistance from corporations, government entities, trade organizations and volunteer associations among others. 

MSU Extension, in collaboration with MDNR will be developing outdoor and environmental educational opportunities on Belle Isle.  The Stepping Stones program was designed to introduce nontraditional and urban audiences to multiple outdoor experiences, ensure a confident step-by-step educational approach by exposure to progressive techniques in outdoor skills and recreation, and move participants from experiences in familiar, nonthreatening locations to a series of progressive locations that build confidence and create statewide natural resources user.

According to the American Institute for Research, at risk students attending residential outdoor education programs have a 27 percent increase in measured mastery of science concepts. They gain self-esteem, positive environmental behavior and show improvement in problem-solving, motivation to learn and classroom behavior over in class students. Research also indicates that students who play and learn in outdoor settings perform better on tests, have higher grade point averages and cause fewer classroom disruptions. Utilizing a variety of outdoor education opportunities such as the Stepping Stones program is a valuable component to youth development, attitudinal and behavior change

The Stepping Stones on Belle Isle will be developed to provide outdoor education experience such as fishing, camping 101, archery, water studies and natural exploration for youth in close proximity to where they live.  Identification of appropriate sites on Belle Isle for each of the Stepping Stones program activities is currently being investigated. Additional programming will continue to be developed to meet the needs of the citizens in Southeast Michigan.

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