The scenic landscape of the Upper Peninsula has inspired a number of critically acclaimed authors to pen tales of adventure in the great outdoors. One of those storytellers has come full circle, becoming the driving force behind an outdoor day camp based in her hometown.
Aileen Fischer was born and raised in Iron River. She wrote hundreds of stories and poems detailing the trials and tribulations of her and her brother’s time in the wilderness of Iron County. Now, Fischer is the namesake of an environmental day camp hosted by the Iron County Museum, embodying their motto of preserving local history.
“What we’re trying to do here today is open children’s eyes to the beauty of the outdoors and the endless possibilities for play and learning and discovery. We have thirty volunteers here today. Everyone of them, I know, has something personally invested in helping children learn about the importance of environment,” explained Maggie Scheffer, the camp’s organizer and an educator in the West Iron County School system. “I’m an elementary teacher, and I recognize how much children absorb and how much learning about the environment stays with them.”
Children from Crystal Falls to Sault Ste Marie played games straight out of Fischer’s books; created nature-based art projects using leaves and feathers found in the area; sang songs about the environment and how to conserve energy; and made magic wallets out of recycled products that were filled with Iron County currency that could be spent inside the museum.
There was even a Native American on hand to reinforce the importance of being resourceful.
“He’s explaining to the children that when an animal is taken, it’s taken with great reverence. Every part of that animal is used. Nothing goes to waste. Every item that he has on the table is one part of that deer. Either it’s used in the clothing or tools or moccasins; anything that they might need or might have needed, they were able to use the parts of the animals that they had killed in a hunt,” Scheffer added.
The one-day camp is now in it’s second year thanks to the funding provided by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition and the Caspian Downtown Development Authority. Scheffer hopes the event will become an annual tradition.