A Year on Education Island

At headquarters, the block of cubicles I work in has been nicknamed Education Island.  There are four cubes separated from the rest of the staff consisting of myself, Camp Director Max Bass, throughout most of 2018 our policy intern Ian Fitzgerald and a 4th cube for the Assistant Camp Director. Education Island is where all of the fun happens in the office.  We have the coolest equipment for our programs and are generally by far the loudest in the office. Along with all this fun comes a great deal of passion and dedication to conservation education.

As many of you know, this year the Education Department has been more active than it has in nearly a decade.  With several programs operating under my guise, you can imagine it was a busy 2018 for me. With a direct role in all of these programs, I put in more hours and participated in more projects then I have at any other time on staff here. If I can brag a little bit, I would like to say the staff who work with me and that are responsible for these programs got some awesome stuff accomplished this year.

TRACKS magazine successfully underwent its 40th anniversary transition and we have three issues published for the 41st year. Nick Green and I are the TRACKS team and Nick has had an immediate impact on the editing side of the magazine. With a keen eye for my typos and a strong grasp of the magazine layout, he has been extremely organized and helpful. TRACKS continues to be 16 pages of science-based content, focusing on Great Lakes region animals.  With a high point subscription rate of more than 21,000 and the expansion of specific Minnesota focused issues, TRACKS is poised to have a great 2019.

The largest and most familiar piece of the Education Department is the Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp.  We had 370 kids attend camp this year.  Two Hundred of them passed hunter safety, and we had a fantastic group of campers and staff at Cedar Lake this year. Our campers spent their summer learning about the role conservation plays in our state.  While also building skills in archery, target shooting, kayaking and even wilderness survival. Max Bass joined us in mid-November and is already busy hiring staff and fletching arrows in preparation for the 2019 season.

A third program area within the Education Department and an exciting project to be working on are our On the Ground and On the Ground Junior programs.  Hunter Salisbury who is the face of this program has been doing volunteer habitat improvement projects around the state since she came on board in May.  During 2018, we completed more than 25 volunteer habitat restoration projects. Eight of these projects were the OTG Jr. Program in its second year.  Adding the field trip based side to the program has helped us increase the number of volunteer hours by 50% and that results in more habitat improved. After completing the two-year grant cycle for the OTG Jr Program we conducted 14 field trip events and covered areas across the state from the Thumb region to Traverse City, with several stops in-between. We have plans to conduct as many as 25 volunteer projects during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. So, please keep an eye out for a project in a state game area near you. You can also check out the map Hunter created. https://mucc.org/otg-launches-new-interactive-map-of-statewide-projects/.

Early in 2018, MUCC combined its Gourmet Gone Wild Program and absorbed the Michigan Learn to Hunt Program to complete a two-year grant cycle.  Both of these programs introduce nontraditional audiences to the idea of hunting to help shape a positive perception of hunting and fishing. Gourmet Gone Wild does this by hosting wild game meals.  We collaborate with organizations around the state and serve fresh healthy wild game to people who have never experienced it before. Typical dishes may include elk sliders, blueberry crusted perch, pheasant wontons and even teriyaki bear.  We conducted 12 events around the state this year.

Learn to Hunt is exactly what it sounds like.  Collaborating with the National Wild Turkey Federation, the DNR, and Pheasants Forever, we have been creating opportunities to introduce new hunters to the field.  The program is mentor-based and designed to help people begin to feel comfortable in the hunting world.  We have hosted and helped with; learn to hunt deer, turkey and pheasant programs.  We have also collaborated with our partners to conduct learn to wing shoot events and hosted adult hunter safety programs.

It has been an adventurous year at MUCC with several new faces joining the staff throughout the year. I am looking forward to what 2019 will bring.  I am also very thankful for the staff I have working with me here on Education Island and the rest of the staff here at MUCC.

Here’s to a new year!

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