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Portage Youths Win Mich. Conservation Art Contest

Published: Friday, September 15, 2023

"Being in the outdoors is one thing. Being able to convey what that feels like and how environments are impacted is something different," said Voyagers key leader Alex deFinta, explaining the Van Buren Voyagers 4-H Club's focus on promoting conservation and environmental education through the arts.

Each year at the Van Buren Youth Fair, Van Buren Voyagers 4-H Club sponsors a $100 junior and senior college scholarship for art projects meeting this criteria.

This year, Van Buren Voyagers 4-H Club expanded the science, technology, engineering, arts and math focus and asked youth to create a cartoon graphic story with an environmental message focusing on Michigan freshwater species. It was named the SpongeBob Challenge in recognition of SpongeBob cartoon creator Stephen Hillenburg, a biology teacher, who created the cartoon to teach youth about ocean species.

"We were expecting some fun characters, but the youth met our expectations and beyond. The senior winner researched, created, and drew a story line about the Michigan Lamprey, an eel-like nasty creature that attaches to freshwater fish like a vampire," said Denise Noble, Van Buren Voyagers 4-H Project F.I.S.H. Leader.

Thorin Smith of Portage, won the junior competition with his fish/jellyfish/snail story and Sydney Smith also of Portage, won the senior competition with her frog/catfish/lamprey story. Each received a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

Van Buren Voyagers is a 4-H club combining the project areas of fishing; outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, etc.; and shooting sports, including: archery, shotgun and air and black powder rifle competitions.

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