By Jacqueline Kelly
If you grew up in the Michigan area, chances are you remember reading the wildlife magazine Tracks in your elementary school classroom.
Supported and written by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), the magazine has taught children in and outside the classroom about local wildlife and ecosystems for 40 years.
That’s long enough for producers to see the life-long impact their work has on its readers, said Tyler Butler, the Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp director, and half of the Tracks creative team. “It’s a wild experience coming across parents who remember reading the publication when they were a child.
“Often, these parents have grown into outdoor enthusiasts and natural resource conscious adults that get a reminder of their childhood when they hold one of our publications in their hands,” Butler said.
Butler and Shaun McKeon, the group’s educational director, create content that meets Michigan’s science education standards. Occasionally they introduce young readers to native animals they may not even know exist.
“We are happy to introduce new and unfamiliar species to our readers and even happier when our readers declare that they now have a new favorite animal,” Butler said.
Their goal is to educate children on the natural resources and the Great Lakes region’s wildlife. Each issue contains a quiz and classroom activity to bring the reading to life.
“As time has gone on and kids have gotten used to different types of media, we have had to adjust the magazine,” McKeon said.
Over the years, the style of Tracks magazine has changed to captivate young minds by including more graphics and changing from a newspaper format to a storytelling format. As print publication, Tracks can be used to improve reading comprehension and engage kids in districts that might not be completely digital.
The outdoor group also offers a 6-day, 5-night summer camp to introduce a love for the outdoors to Michigan kids.
Since 1946, MUCC has helped more than 50,000 kids learn about nature and conservation. They camp, fish, canoe, swim, hike and learn about forestry, wildlife identification and archery. Campers can earn hunter education certificates and learn conservation practices.
The magazine can be found in elementary classrooms all over the United States and is available for an individual subscription of $10 a year. Call 1-800-777-6720. If you sign up for the Michigan OUT-of-DOORS Youth Camp, you get one year of Tracks for free. For information about the youth camp, email Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.