Recently, University Outreach partnered with the Udall Foundation’s Parks in Focus (PIF) Program and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint to launch a pilot program to introduce 10 youth to area parks through digital photography. Over the last few weeks, participants have explored Ligon Outdoor Center, Max Brandon City Park, Bluebell Beach County Park, Stepping Stone Falls and Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge on day-long trips. The program culminated last weekend (August 19-21) with a camping trip to Bay City State Recreation Area. The adventure was full of firsts for the participants: camping in tents, s’more-making over a campfire, fishing, bird watching, and more.
The mission of the program was to connect underserved youth to nature through photography. For middle-school youth who rarely venture beyond their neighborhoods, a program like this can open windows of story-telling and self-expression, can spark a new interest in science and nature, and can, ultimately, change lives. Throughout the summer, participants got their hands and shoes dirty as they camped, hiked, fished, explored, and photographed. They learned about the natural history of Saginaw Bay Region, were introduced to people who work within parks, and developed team-working skills.
The Flint program was initiated by and is funded through University Outreach at the University of Michigan-Flint with additional support from Michigan State Parks and REI of Ann Arbor.