More Than a College Visit

The focus at Northland College was to connect practices of leadership and conservation; human’s changing relationship with the land; finding balance/ weighing pros and cons to for resources and land; inspire students to be conservation leaders in their own communities. On our first day here, students began brain-storming and researching stewardship project ideas in the Northland College library. After dinner in the main dining hall, we visited a Superfund site in Ashland, where students were able to think critically about the lasting impact that environmental contamination can leave for humans to deal with.


The next day we left the college campus and traveled to the headwaters of the Bad River River. We did an in depth investigation of the Bad River watershed from bogs to headwaters to soil and sediment to rocks and mineral deposits. Later that afternoon, we learned about the Ojibwe culture and relationship with the land- giving thanks and truly appreciating what the flora and fauna of the area; being aware of seasons and changes— plants and animals provide us with more than what we provide them. All of us got a chance to make rice knockers, the tool that the Ojibwe use for harvesting wild rice on the reservation. We were thankful to spend two nights camping on a beautiful property owned by Ojibwe elder Jo (whose tribal name was Rising Sun). Additionally, we traveled Native Americans did on Voyageur canoes on the Bad River and on Lake Superior. On our last night at the reservation, we listened to a presentation by Jo and Ojibwa tribal member of Jo’s band. We learned about the presentation of Medicine Wheel, and of several virtues: love, respect, honesty, humility, truth, bravery. “Work together to change the world”; “be passionate about what you do with your life,” were final words of wisdom from professors Alan and Tom. (Post from June 24-26, 2015)

A Time Well Spent

Our last day at Camp Manito-Wish was focused on personal growth as students completed the high ropes course. CCL member Grayson reflected that there were a few times when she thought she was going to quit, but she found something in herself that allowed her to continue. “Even though I was terrified I pushed through it and it made me realize I am stronger than I thought I was,” she said. Grayson also mentioned that encouragement from her group provided her with the support to find that strength within. Many students nodded their heads in agreement when Grayson shared this thought. Counselors have noticed an evident change in personal strength, confidence, and independence in the students after the experiences at Camp Manito-Wish.


The Manito-Wish program succeeded in guiding our students in continuing to develop leadership skills and find inner strength to lead others in making positive impacts. (Post from June 23, 2015)

Happy Trails!

All trail groups had an amazing and eye-opening 3 days and 2 nights in the Porcupine Mountains! The CCL students grew tremendously personally in the areas of self confidence, backcountry awareness, and backpacking and as a team in the areas of cooperation and support. The experience was definitely challenging, both mentally and physically, as students hiked many miles with heavy packs each day and endured wet feet and pesky insects. However, all students took the opportunity to grow from their challenges and the views, memories, and songs from the trip are something the students will never forget. (Post from June 22, 2015)

An Introduction to Leadership Development

Adventures at Manitowish began with students applying their leadership, teamwork, patience and problem-solving skills to conquer challenges presented on the low ropes course. These challenges sparked growth for students both personally and as a team. They developed awareness of their attributes that support the group, different leadership styles and how great it feels to overcome things that initially cause confusion and frustration.

CCL students were then divided into their trail groups and met with their trail leaders to prepare backpacks, tents, stoves, food and other necessities essential for their three day backcountry experience in the Porcupine Mountains. (Post from June 19, 2015)

The Butterfly Effect

Today we engaged in citizen science by catching and banding birds to collect data for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Some of us even got to hold and release the birds after identifying and banding them! Later in the day, we put our observational skills and sense of place to work as we completed a picture post scavenger hunt. We tested our knowledge of the local flora and fauna during the scavenger hunt. Our day wrapped up with a presentation on Monarch butterflies. We all built and decorated our very own Monarch boxes. (Post from June 18, 2015).

Did you hear a wolf?

We began our day with a visit from Mark Zanoni, Camp Manito-wish’s Leadership Program Outreach Director. Mark led our group in several teambuilding initiatives previewing our upcoming visit to Camp Manito-wish and our camping adventure. These initiatives helped us realize individual strengths and challenges when working in a group setting. “It was difficult,” reflected Sam R. after completing one of the initiatives, “but it helped to talk about what we could have done better afterwards.”

Following lunch, we soaked up the sun on a thirteen mile canoe paddle down the Manitowish River. We are becoming accomplished paddlers!  It was a smooth but adventurous ride for all as we cooled off with friendly splash exchanges between canoes.  Emma enthusiastically described the paddle as being “so much fun!” We spotted a Great Blue Heron, several species of fish, a Bald Eagle, and a Muskrat on the river. The adventures of these intrepid explorers trickled into our dinner conversations. It was an afternoon to remember for all of us.

In the evening, we all tapped into our inner Canis Lupus as we set out to survey wolves around Manitowish Waters. This thrilling experience sent a chill down our spines as we huddled and howled out into the dark North Woods in hopes of hearing a response!  “I thought it was really interesting,” said Sam M., “and I was really looking forward to hearing a response.” It remains unclear as to whether or not a response was heard. There are mysteries in the woods, especially at dusk!

Not all water is alike!

Water was the focus of the third day. Professor Tim Kratz of the University of Wisconsin Limnology (make sure you ask your students what that means!) Station at Trout Lake discussed fresh water health and issues with the students on a rainy morning. Tim helped the students understand the importance of watersheds and lake dynamics. They learned about the environmental impact of of invasive aquatic species and lakefront development. Tim’s message to students was that, through  research and sound scientific studies, we can use our knowledge to act as stewards and positively impact ecosystems.

In the afternoon the group bravely stepped off trail and out of their comfort zones as they explored a bog full of 1,000 year old decaying matter. Teamwork and laughter rose as students sank up to their knees in the soft bog. Students trudged through the difficult terrain to find various plant species. They took on the role of educator as they taught each other about their plants with skits, poems, and songs. The bog has definitely been a highlight of the trip!

More water lay ahead as students learned to evaluate the health and composition of the wateren as they learned to measure water quality through chemistry.They are now experts in testing the amount of dissolved oxygen and pH of water; using a secchi disk to measure water clarity and using nets to collect macro-invertebrates. Students loved catching and identifying the critters. You are never swimming alone!

A Day with Trees and Pollinators

Our second day at North Lakeland Discovery Center was spent with our wonderful friend, gifted educator and local forester Joe Panci. Joe gave the students their first exposure to the lovely and deep northern forests. The students worked together to observe and communicate ways to identify trees, describe factors and relationships occurring among biotic and abiotic factors in a forest, and make connections between forest health and our actions. Some favorite activities include: using a tree core to identify the age of a tree and a soil core to observe soil characteristics at various depths. Through this experience, students learned that “diversity creates stability” in the forests as well as in our communities.

Joe led the students on a forest hike through a very special old growth forest. During this hike, the group braved the mosquito hordes as they identified birds based on calls and explored vernal pools in successful search for salamanders, frogs and toads. This is one of April’s favorite things to do and she helped introduce the other students to this special world.

Later in the day local bee keeper Irv Rueger talked with the students about the importance of pollinators as he explained the importance of bees in ecosystems and agriculture. The students loved tasting 10 different kinds of honey, which vary in taste based on pollination. A  great way to celebrate National Pollinator Week and a special treat at the end of a long and busy day!


Welcome to the North Woods!

From the start, our CCL group of sixteen new students focused on forming friendships, getting to know each other, working as a team and learning about conservation.

Upon arriving at North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, WI, we were warmly greeted by the executive director of the the Discovery Center,  Azael, and naturalist, Licia.  The group excitedly participated in team building and communication skills games and laughter and smiles were abundant. By this time, all were old friends!

CCL’s definition of environment is so place-based and it was with this in mind that the students were led in a discussion that first evening in which they applied the principles of land ethic and sense of place. They watched clips of the documentary Green Fire and talked about how they can be conservation leaders like Aldo Leopold.

Our first full day on Saturday was spent canoeing to Raugh’s Preserve, an old growth forest maintained by The Nature Conservancy, accessible to visitors only by water. To do so, students canoed through the Palmer and Tenderfoot Lakes and the Antanoggin River. Despite occasional rain and wind, students showed fortitude, determination and cooperation as they paddled a total of 6 miles, quite a distance for even the most experienced canoe enthusiast! Students spotted a Bald Eagle, muskrat, multiple beaver dams, and several Common Loons.  On the way back to the Discovery Center, many students reveled in the fact that they had the opportunity to experience something so few people do.

Chloe Franklin summed up the day by writing,“The more you believe, the more you achieve” in our community journal.


Reflections from the other side of our Great Lake Michigan

Another year visiting the other side of Lake Michigan is in the books. We had an engaged and inquisitive group of ten CCL students join us for a week in northern Michigan, augmenting their knowledge of freshwater systems from a variety of professionals in the field. Here is a bit of what they had to say about their experience:


“I really enjoyed deconstructing the trail, because we had to make it look like the trail was never there. . . When I looked around and saw no trail, I felt a rush of pride and satisfaction, that I can work with nature and help turn it back to the way it used to be.”

“We all stood there for a while admiring the lake shining in the sun, the islands, and the horizon. It was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

– Jean-Paul Anyansi, reflecting on work with the Leelanau Conservancy


“Kayaking down this river was a wonderful and fulfilling experience. Seeing the quiet water glide over stones and through the shore’s grasses was restoring. Nurse logs lined the river, showing how new life emerges from old. Preservation of these places is cruicial if we want to maintain our environment.”

– Cat Shank, reflecting on our paddle down the CrystalRiver


“This day really altered my view of the Great Lakes. They may be beautiful, but there is still a lot of work to be done to save them so that future generations can appreciate the same beauty that we do today.”

– Maddie Nelson, reflecting on the dunes hikes with Ranger Shawn


“The sunset at Sleeping Bear Dunes was the most remarkable landscape I have ever seen. . . by being involved with conservation, it made me want to conserve this amazing landscape created by a glacier. . . why wouldn’t you want to conserve that!”

– Sarah van Nevel, reflecting on Sleeping Bear Dunes


“If we plan on helping our environment a great way to start is by helping our nearest bog, swamp, or marsh, because even the little things, like pulling out invasive plants, make a really big difference.”

– Phedra Wade, reflecting on learning about wetlands


“I loved all of the activities that were planned for the group but what stood out most was the research vessel, the W.G. Jackson. This was very exciting because I want to be a marine biologist, and this is the type of work I have dreamed of doing.”

– Devyn Morris, reflecting on the W.G. Jackson research vessel.


“I had previously gone fly-fishing . . . but of course there are always new things for us to learn and improve on.”

– Chelsi Barraza, reflecting on fly-fishing.


“We learned about many different things, such as seamanship, studying the weather, water chemistry and limnology, plankton, sediment and benthos, and fish. We learned how everything is connected, why Lake Michigan is important, and what we can do to protect it.”

– Olivia Maggos, reflecting on the research schooner in Grand Traverse Bay


“Since these were made from glaciers [Sleeping Bear Dunes] we should work our hardest to preserve these precious landscapes.”

– Hannah Rowan, reflecting on Sleeping Bear Dunes


“The oldest tree we saw was a 50-60 year old ash tree. You can identify trees from their bark, like the diamond shaped bark of an ash, or by their leaves like with the maple. It [Clay Cliffs] was an interesting place to be.”

– Michael Mahoney, reflecting on work with the Leelanau Conservancy