There is something new and exciting happening on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in downtown Wayzata. The Lake Minnetonka Science Collaborative just completed its pilot program, three weeks of Lake Exploration Camp. This summer programming was staged from a little known area of Wayzata’s prime lakefront, the future site of the Lake Effect Project’s Eco Park. The camp was led by the YMCA of Ridgedale with support and cooperation from the Lake Minnetonka Science Collaborative. This group also includes: the Wayzata Community Sailing Center, Wayzata School District, Science Museum of Minnesota, University of Minnesota, DNR, Three Rivers Park District, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, Interfaith Outreach, Lake Minnetonka Association and the Wayzata Lake Effect Conservancy.

Together the Lake Minnetonka Science Collaborative, shares a goal of delivering a unique lake experience for these campers. The focus is experiential STEM learning and engagement with Lake Minnetonka in a fun and adventurous way. The result so far has been three fun filled weeks of STEM curriculum, with the lake serving as the classroom and campers enjoying fishing, sailing and adventures on the lake, along with all the other fun activities of summer camp. For some campers it was the very first time being on the lake and experiencing this local treasure.

Hank Carlson, Mobile Camp and Outreach Coordinator with the YMCA, loved working on the curriculum with the Lake Minnetonka Science Collaborative so the camps would, “Not only introduce Lake Minnetonka as an amazing recreational resource, but to also explore its cultural, environmental and economic importance.” Additional camp activities include learning about the local lake ecology and aquatic invasive species, testing water samples, and fish identification. Don Duncan, Lake Minnetonka boater for over 40 years, volunteered to take campers out on his boat, to experience the curriculum, at different locations on the lake. He said, “One of the most interesting things about me helping out was the educational part of it – I learned things about Lake Minnetonka that I didn’t even know.”

The Lake Effect Conservancy’s mission is to restore, enhance and protect Wayzata’s lakefront to create a connected and accessible community space. In September 2017, the Conservancy invited leaders from many organizations to gather for conversation around a shared interest in enriching youth, STEM learning, and the unique opportunity to engage with Lake Minnetonka in this unused portion of lakefront in Wayzata.

The Lake Minnetonka Science Collaborative was born, and the group saw an opportunity to provide kids with a unique and enriching experience on a part of the lake that has long been overlooked. While the camp was developed as a pilot project, the group is hopeful it can continue the camp again next year with donor support. In addition, the Lake Effect Conservancy continues with a larger fundraising effort to raise $10 million in donations. These donations will be used to enhance Wayzata’s lakefront with expanded park space, that includes an Eco Park and learning center for such year round programming. To learn more or to donate please go to Lake Effect Conservancy.

Water samples were gathered as part of the Lake Exploration Camps – a Science Museum of Minnesota educator provided instruction on the boat rides. Local Lake Minnetonka resident, Bill Popp, volunteered his time and his boat to give the campers lake access and an exciting way to explore the lake and find new locations for unique learning experiences.