In August 2009, a group of 12 sixth- and seventh-graders from the NCCS Boys and Girls Club of Newaygo County and the Muskegon River Valley Chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters went on a six-day, five-night photographic safari of some of the Upper Peninsula’s most scenic destinations. The trip was part of a program called Parks in Focus, which aims to connect underserved youth to nature by introducing participants to state and national parks and providing them with equipment and instruction to explore the natural world through the lens of a camera.

Parks in Focus is developed and supported by the Morris K. Udall Foundation, an independent federal agency based out of Tucson, Arizona. The program began in Arizona in 1999 with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson. The Foundation has since expanded and now supports trips with Boys & Girls Clubs in Maine, Michigan, New Jersey and Washington, with plans to include more states, more parks and more participants in the near future. Since the program’s inception, approximately 200 youth have completed the Parks in Focus program.

This year marked the third annual adventure in the Great Lakes state.

Participants spent the week camping at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, where they searched for salamanders, bounced on bogs and crawled into bear dens. The group also visited Seney National Wildlife Refuge and the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, where they met with natural resource professionals and toured Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Participants learned about the natural history of each site they visited as they experimented with landscape and macro photography. Each youngster documented his or her adventures with a new Canon digital camera that was given to them at the conclusion of the trip. Combined, the participants took more than 7,000 photos of the people, places, plants and animals they met along the way.

Enjoy these photo highlights taken by the 2009 Michigan participants.

NCCS Boys & Girls Club of Newaygo County Participants

  • Adam of Fremont, Age 15
  • Eric of Fremont, Age 11
  • Iain of White Cloud, Age 11
  • Savannah of Newaygo, Age 12
  • Tristan of Fremont, Age 12
  • Zia of Fremont, Age 13

Muskegon River Valley Chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters Participants

  • Caleb of Big Rapids, Age 12
  • Dominique of Big Rapids, Age 12
  • Katy of Big Rapids, Age 12
  • Kaitlin of Hersey, Age 12
  • Owen of Barryton, Age 14
  • Tim of Big Rapids, Age 13

More …

Read more about Parks in Focus.

See photos from the 2008 program.

Tips for nature photography from Steve Brimm

Plan a Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore weekend away.

Parks in Focus Photo Gallery

Click thumbnails for larger versions and photographer information. Also, view larger images on Flickr.