Into the woods with Coggin Heeringa

A summer at Interlochen Arts Camp is a life-changing experience—for both students and staff.

In 1967, Carol “Coggin” Heeringa joined the Interlochen Arts Camp staff as a counselor in the Intermediate Girls Division. Eight weeks later, after taking the Environmental Exploration class with one of her campers, Heeringa made the decision to change her college major to reflect her newfound passion for nature.

For more than 40 years, Heeringa has returned to the place where she first discovered her love of the outdoors to share that passion with a new generation of artists. Through the Environmental Exploration course—offered as an elective for junior and intermediate students—Heeringa introduces young artists to the ecosystems of northern Michigan and provides context for environmental issues.

Heeringa works year-round as the director of Crossroads at Big Creek in Door County, Wisconsin. She also writes about nature in local Wisconsin publications, and has previously recorded segments about the ecology of northern Michigan for Interlochen Public Radio.

In this interview, Heeringa shares her history with Interlochen, the campus’s unique ecology and the importance of studying the environment.