Local teens learn about natural resources, DNR career opportunities

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More than 20 teens from the greater Detroit area attended the Department of Natural Resources’ fifth annual Youth Conservation Academy, which took place last week in Detroit.

The Youth Conservation Academy taught students, ages 16-18, about career opportunities in the natural resources field and within the DNR. Students participated in hands-on activities at the DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center and on Belle Isle with DNR staff members, including conservation officers, fish and wildlife biologists, geologists, foresters, historians, and marketing and outreach professionals, and learned about each division of the department.

During the five-day academy, learning experiences and activities included:

• Wildlife identification and practicing students’ new skills outdoors.
• Learning about the importance of trees and vegetation.
• Fishing and learning about the different types of fish in Michigan.
• Archery instruction and practice.
• Learning about Belle Isle Park and riding bikes on the island.
• A discussion with Michigan History Center staff about a time capsule, placed in Detroit during the early 1900s and opened in 2001, and what students would put in a time capsule today if they were to create one.
• Biking and canoeing.
• An activity that simulated digging for gold.

“The Youth Conservation Academy is an important opportunity for youth in southeast Michigan to learn about natural resources,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Some of these teens might have grown up without the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time enjoying the outdoors. This academy allows teens to engage in natural resources activities, and we hope it makes them aware of the outdoor career opportunities available to them. We would like to see as many people as possible safely enjoying the outdoors and pursuing natural resources careers – it’s up to the next generation to preserve Michigan’s natural resources.”

Conservation officers instructed students in hunter education, which includes first aid, outdoor survival and tree stand and firearm safety. All students, plus two of the academy’s chaperones, passed the final exam and earned their hunter education safety certificate on Friday afternoon. DNR Director Dan Eichinger and Chief Hagler attended the event and presented students with their hunter education safety certificates, which give students the opportunity to hunt for a lifetime.

Participants also went home with a fishing license, donated by an anonymous donor. Each student also received a fishing pole and tackle box with fishing gear that were purchased at a discounted cost, courtesy of Northwoods Wholesale Outlet, located in Pinconning, using grant money from the Passing Along The Heritage (PATH) Foundation.

This was the first year that the Youth Conservation Academy was conducted over the course of one week. Traditionally instructed one day per week over the course of six weeks, the revised curriculum allowed youth to be more engaged with staffers, instead of taking long breaks between sessions. Youth participants were selected from the DNR’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

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