MSU grad’s work in Northeast Michigan will support place-based stewardship education

A childhood filled with beach trips, nature camps, and Ranger Rick magazines helped Hannah Hazewinkel choose her career path early on.

MSU graduate Hannah Hazewinkel is one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving this year with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan. Courtesy photo

MSU graduate Hannah Hazewinkel is one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving this year with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan. Courtesy photo

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI), a place-based stewardship education network and partnership, has gained a new set of helping hands through the Huron Pines AmeriCorps program. Hannah Hazewinkel, a Michigan State University graduate, joins as one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan this year. Hannah received her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology and Zoology in May 2017.

As part of the NEMIGLSI network, Hannah will be supporting place-based stewardship education activities that facilitate school-community partnerships and support educators through sustained professional development. Most of all, her service will help engage youth, through their learning, in environmental stewardship issues and projects that make a difference in communities across northern Michigan.

In collaboration with MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant, Huron Pines is a leadership partner to the NEMIGLSI network and since 2009 they have placed AmeriCorps members annually in service of this education initiative. These members have been crucial in establishing and expanding this educational network of school and community partners in northeast Michigan communities.

So what do we have to look forward to in Hannah’s expertise and service in the coming year? Let’s meet and learn more about Hannah in her own words.

Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to pursue a career in environmental or conservation stewardship?

A childhood filled with beach trips, nature camps and Ranger Rick magazines had me convinced at the age of 9 or 10 that working in environmental conservation was the life path for me. For years I plastered my room in nature photos and articles and I dedicated myself to the study of natural science. In July of 2015, I realized the incredible power of environmental stewardship when I helped facilitate a tree planting event as an intern with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. That day changed my life. I spent the following two years volunteering/interning/working at Fenner Nature Center, engaging with the educational programs and volunteer coordination, as well as becoming a Staff Naturalist. The support team and the experiences I had there taught me so much about nature and community relationships and inspired me to pursue stewardship and education as a career path.

What do you most look forward to in your upcoming service with the NEMIGLSI network and partnership?

I’m really looking forward to working with the youth and providing them with opportunities to engage with the land and the lakes and be touched by these encounters as I was. I love being able to witness these interactions firsthand and watch students and community members learn and grow in their connection to nature. I’m also excited to get out to these natural places in Northern Michigan and have as much of an engagement and learning experience as the students.

Looking forward and after nearly a year of service – what would you like to have accomplished?

I hope to gain a breadth of experience with place-based education and a better understanding of how we can integrate it into our educational systems to foster good student-community interactions and raise good environmental stewards. I want to build a good skills portfolio but also have my service mean something to the communities and the natural areas that I interact with. If I can change the life and perspective of at least one student and create a more sustainable future for at least one natural region, then at the end of the day I can be assured that I have made at least a small contribution to the Earth and reciprocated a fraction of the gifts that I have been given. For me, service is not about getting myself ahead, but rather showing humility and gratitude for the human and natural communities that have blessed and supported me throughout my life. 

How has your experience at MSU prepared you for this role and opportunity?

MSU and Lyman Briggs College provided me with a great natural science education, and diverse opportunities to explore different career paths, countries, cultures and activities. Their partnership with Massey University in New Zealand allowed me to have a life-changing study abroad and internship experience. Through the science and humanities-based curriculum in LBC, I was able to gain a better comprehension of how science is integrated in society, and how we need a well-rounded and open perspective to understand and solve the world’s problems.

What are some of your favorite Great Lakes and natural resources hobbies or memories? What Great Lakes and natural resources experience are you most looking forward to experiencing?

I’ve always been an avid beach-goer and paddler. One of my favorite stories from my parents is the time they took me down the Lower Platte River in a raft when I was less than two years old. I enjoy kayaking adventures and trips to Lake Michigan every summer and fall, and last year I completed my first Great Lakes tour, swimming in every Lake over the course of the summer. Fond memories from that trip include swimming in Lake Huron when the solar eclipse peaked and almost being denied entry into Canada because the immigration officers didn’t believe that anyone would be traveling just for the sake of seeing the Lakes. I’m looking forward to spending more time in Lake Huron, hiking, and paddling northeast Michigan rivers, particularly the Au Sable of which I am very fond.

4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp – registration now open!

Event Date: 8/5/2018
End Date: 8/11/2018

 

4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp will be held Sunday, August 5 through Sunday, August 11, 2018, at Camp Chickagami in Presque Isle.

This camp is for teens aged 13-15, or going into 8th-10th grades in the fall. The cost is $375.00 for 4-H member and $395.00 for non-4-H members.

Please visit the below link for the online application process. If you have youth that will try to find funding from 4-H Council, please have the family pay in full, and the 4-H Council reimburse the family. This will keep payment processing with Events Management efficient.

The deadline for application is May 1.

https://events.anr.msu.edu/event.cfm?eventID=02B2D330861D46B4

If you have a youth that is interested in applying to become a counselor, please visit the same link and they will find the link for counselor applications. Youth must be at least 16 years of age, and have some experience in camp counseling.

We look forward to another great year at 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources camp!

See: Brochure (PDF)

Contact

Laura Potter-Niesen  |  Educational Program Events Coordinator
Michigan State University Extension  |  Children & Youth Institute
Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture
446 W. Circle Drive, Room 160
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: 517-432-2963 
Fax: 517-353-4846
Email: potterla@msu.edu

Youth voices on Great Lakes, marine sanctuaries and more shared through film

Event Date: 1/24/2018
End Date: 1/28/2018

Thunder Bay International Film Festival explores Great Lakes issues, ocean exploration, maritime heritage and more.

The 2018 Thunder Bay International Film Festival features films about Great Lakes issues, ocean exploration, maritime heritage, and more.

The 2018 Thunder Bay International Film Festival features films about Great Lakes issues, ocean exploration, maritime heritage, and more.

Film lovers, filmmakers, proud parents and students will be flocking to Alpena, Mich., this next week for the sixth annual Thunder Bay International Film Festival (TBIFF). The festival takes place Wednesday through Sunday (Jan. 24-28, 2018), at NOAA’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and is hosted by Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in partnership with the International Ocean Film Festival. Films will be featured from around the world exploring ocean and Great Lakes issues, and much more. Student films will be featured during the TBIFF’s 3rd Annual Student Film Competition.

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network and partnership, the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine SanctuaryMichigan Sea Grant, and others partner sponsor this student competition to inspire young filmmakers – and to promote deeper understanding of Great Lakes and ocean issues. The 2018 stewardship theme and film challenge for students was #SanctuariesAre, and 9 student films (grades K-12) explore our National Marine Sanctuaries – and other creative interpretations of sanctuaries – through the lens of these talented youth. Student films will be shown 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, followed a filmmakers’ panel discussion. This portion of the festival is free and open to the public.

The entire TBIFF will screen nearly fifty films, ranging in length from one minute to feature-length at the NOAA Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. This is an opportunity for many to view films from the International Ocean Film Festival, a long-running, global festival of ocean-themed films, but which are largely unavailable to the general public. Films also will be shown at the Rogers City Theatre in Rogers City, Mich. (Jan. 24) and the Alcona County Library in Harrisville, Mich. (Jan. 25).

listing of times and locations of filmsOne festival film featured this year is “Immiscible: The Fight Over Line 5,” a film produced by Dan Stephens, a Michigan StateUniversity alumni. Stephens studied documentary production at MSU, but has an interest in natural resources leadership. In middle and high school, Dan was both a past camper and counselor at the statewide 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp sponsored by Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant. Stephens hopes to speak with and inspire this year’s student film competitors to continue their journey to foster Great Lakes stewardship and educational opportunities through film.

In addition, a Michigan Sea Grant film titled “Fish Guts,” created by MSUstudent Zachary Barnes and Extension educator Dan O’Keefe describes a Great Lakes predator fish diet study involving a citizen science effort where anglers help scientists better understand foodweb interactions among fisheries in Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Tickets are $30 for the Friday reception and films, $6 per program for films aired on Saturday and Sunday. The filmmakers panel and student films taking place 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday are free and open to the public. A full festival pass (Thunder Pass) can be purchased at a discount. Call (989) 356-8805, visit thunderbayfriends.org, or come into the Sanctuary Store (500 West Fletcher, Alpena) to buy your tickets. For more information about the Thunder Bay International Film Festival or the Student Film Competition, call 989-884-6212 or email Stephanie Gandulla.

Project-Based Learning Meets Place-Based Stewardship Education

Event Date: 2/15/2018

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Your school, your community organization, and YOU are invited to join and participate in the annual, youth education-focused Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) Regional Network Meeting on Thursday, February 15, 2018 hosted in Alpena, Michigan. 

Program Expectations/Objectives

  • Learn about the NEMIGLSI network and gain educational updates, information and resources in support of your stewardship education programs and efforts.
  • Network, share, and trade lessons learned with participating NEMIGLSI partners and projects; a chance to connect with educators and community partners from around our region.
  • Contribute in planning the future direction for your regional NEMIGLSI, a focus this year on linking project-based and place-based stewardship education! Your opportunity to provide input and guidance about how GLSI can better support place-based efforts in northeast Michigan!

Registration

Please share with those who may be interested in participating and benefit from the day, and we hope you will plan to join yourself!

  • Register online no later than Friday, February 9th.
  • No cost to participate and lunch is provided. We only request you please pre-register, as this helps us plan for meals and educational materials provided (if you have any food allergies, please contact Meaghan Gass, meaghan.nemiglsi@gmail.com)
  • NEMIGLSI School participation stipends. $100/teacher 

Questions or need additional information? Please feel free to contact us by e-mail at northeastmichiganGLSI@gmail.com or phone: (989) 884-6216. 

In good tradition, we anticipate a wonderful day of networking and sharing information, resources, and new ideas among schools, educators and community partners engaged in youth development and environmental stewardship across northeast Michigan.

Aplex (Alpena Events Complex)
Huron Conference Room
701 Woodward Avenue
Alpena, MI 49707
www.aplex.org

Students find winter is a perfect time to prepare for spring pollinator garden project

Alcona first-grade students spend day learning and preparing for their part in creating library garden.

Alcona elementary students enjoy creating their own caterpillars. Photo: Alcona Community Schools

Alcona elementary students enjoy creating their own caterpillars. Photo: Alcona Community Schools

Bees and butterflies, exploring native wildflowers, planting seed balls, and a painted caterpillar art project – all this adds up to a fun-filled morning learning about pollinators and native wildflowers with Alcona Community Schools. Students were not only applying their science and math, reading and art skills but also were preparing for a pollinator garden project they are creating in spring with their local library.

The Alcona County Library recently received a grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund to create a community reading garden and book trail at their main branch in Harrisville, Mich. The library team has been planning the design with Alcona Community School educators, Michigan State University Extension staff, and other community partners – and at the center will be local students helping to accomplish this exciting project.

Alcona students from pre-school to high school will eventually contribute to the reading garden and trail. First-graders will begin by planting a pollinator garden in the shape of a colorful caterpillar to inspire an educational connection between native wildflowers and pollinators such as bees and butterflies. This shape was strategically chosen to complement the existing pollinator garden, which is in the shape of a butterfly. The original garden also was developed by teachers and students several years ago as a schoolyard habitat demonstration project at Alcona Elementary.

While planting the library garden won’t happen until spring, there are plenty of tasks to be accomplished in preparation. Recently student exploration included five simple yet purposeful (and fun) learning stations.

  • Art inspired: a painting project involved egg cartons cut into strips and turned upside down to look like caterpillars. Student art inspired their ideas about colors and creation of the soon to be caterpillar-shaped garden.
  • A science lesson: students learned in a hands-on way about pollinators such as bees and butterflies, along with a variety of native wildflowers that benefit pollinators.
  • Story problem solved by math: knowing six circle planters would be arranged to make their caterpillar garden, students used feed sacks filled with leaves to visually figure out how many bags of soil they would need to fill one circle. Applying their math and counting skills allowed them to figure a total amount of soil needed for their entire garden project.
  • A reason for reading: students read through a handful of nature books, picking a few of their favorites. Book titles and quotes from these favorites may be highlighted in signage created as part of the library project.
  • Hands-in-the-dirt learning: The class also explored a variety of native wildflowers (and colors of flowers) for their project; and got their hands dirty making ‘seed balls’ (moist soil balled up with a mix of native seeds). They planted these in their own local schoolyard habitats currently, while looking forward to planting more of seeds at the library this spring.

Part of a year-long place-based education effort, this fun-filled day represented was just one educational step toward creating their caterpillar-shaped pollinator garden. At the start of the school year, students launched their pollinator studies by raising, tagging, and releasing monarch butterflies as part of a Monarch Watch project. They also explored biodiversity of schoolyard habitats using tablets and the online iNaturalist citizen science project to document life found in their schoolyard pollinator garden and milkweed habitats. They also visited coastal Lake Huron habitats (important migratory habitats for monarchs) at DNR Harrisville State Park where they helped pick up litter and pull invasive spotted knapweed plants. Finally they made a quick visit to the library to see the site where their project would develop.

These native wildflower and pollinator habitat projects – both at the elementary school and soon to be at the library – are the result of place-based education learning effort led by Alcona educators with community partners supported through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI). This project represents a fantastic school-community partnership where students and their stewardship project are relevant and valued by their community. Of equal value, lead educator Gail Gombos notes this project offers multiple learning values and hands-on experiences and gives her students an opportunity to expand learning in connection to the stewardship project throughout the entire school year.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension help provide leadership for the NEMIGLSI network, which is part of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI), a larger, statewide partnership. Professional development and project support for this project was also provided through the regional Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy.

Alpena students’ project yields more than 1,000 pounds of invasive frogbit

First- and fifth-grade students remove invasive species from Great Lakes watershed, clean up along the Thunder Bay River — and captured it all on film.

Alpena elementary students work alongside NEMIGLSI network coordinator, Meaghan Gass, to identify and remove invasive European frogbit. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Alpena elementary students work alongside NEMIGLSI network coordinator, Meaghan Gass, to identify and remove invasive European frogbit. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

More than 100 first- and fifth-graders from Alpena Public Schools got their feet wet this fall contributing to an invasive species removal effort in their local watershed. Visiting the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary and the Maritime Heritage Trail along the shores of Thunder Bay River these students removed more than 1,000 pounds of invasive European frogbit, conducted litter cleanups, and did a little filmmaking to raise public awareness about their project.

Removal of European frogbit, newly found in the Thunder Bay watershed, took center stage as the primary stewardship project for participating students. This invasive plant grows in large, thick mats that block sunlight to the aquatic plants beneath it; therein threatening the health of surrounding plants and aquatic wildlife. Community and conservation leaders – with helping hands from these students – have prioritized removal efforts to help reduce and prevent the spread of this new invader to the local watershed. Student efforts contributed in accomplishing the Huron Pines frogbit challenge, where the collective community (with students) worked together to remove close to 3,500 pounds in 2017.

To get the ball rolling, fifth-graders from Hinks Elementary visited Duck Park where they donned waders and life jackets, grabbed rakes and buckets, and after learning to identify frogbit, started pulling the plant. Two hours later, they had pulled close to 500 pounds of frogbit from the river. Arriving later in the afternoon that same day, fifth-graders from Besser Elementary removed more frogbit, and also conducted an Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-A-Beach litter clean up along the Thunder Bay River. Over the course of three hours they picked up more than 12 pounds of trash and removed more than 700 pounds of frogbit. Meanwhile, on the Maritime Heritage trail, first-graders from Lincoln Elementary removed nearly 20 pounds of frogbit and eight pounds of trash along the river.

a picture of European frogbit that grows in thick mats in water

Throughout the day students shared their experience with local media – but also collected their own photos, video footage and interviews using iPads provided through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) in order to share their stories. Students provided a public service by removing invasive species and they also learned the importance of raising community awareness on these issues. They hope to produce a short film highlighting the dedication of their class, teachers and community partners to keeping our Great Lakes clean and free of invasive species.

A great example of place-based stewardship education in action, this experience offered opportunity to expand students’ learning beyond the four walls of the classroom while partnering with their community to accomplish this river habitat improvement goal. These enthusiastic students from three different schools collectively engaged in a fun-filled, hands-on learning experience while enhancing the Thunder Bay watershed and Lake Huron habitats within their own local Alpena community.

Teachers from Besser, Hinks and Lincoln Elementary schools facilitated this effort through the NEMIGLSI network and partnership.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension help provide leadership for the network, which is part of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI), a larger, statewide partnership. Other NEMIGLSI network partners collaborating with the schools and providing leadership for this project included: Huron PinesHuron Pines AmeriCorpsAlpena Wildlife Sanctuary, and NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

2017 NEMIGLSI Fall Networking Meeting

Event Date: 10/26/2017

Great Lakes Literacy and Connections to Inland Schools

Thursday, October 26, 2017

9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Please Log In to register.
Registration is Required for this Event

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Your school, your community organization, and YOU are invited to join the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network and participate in our youth education-focused Inland Regional Network Meeting on Thursday, October 26, 2017 hosted in Gaylord, Michigan.

We hope this opportunity, in addition to our Annual Networking Meeting in February, will serve to bolster NEMIGLSI network efforts to support Place-based Stewardship Education (PBSE) and build relationships between partners with inland schools. A special thanks to our Leadership Partners, Great Lakes Fishery Trust and Huron Pines, for helping host and support this event.

The DEADLINE to register is October 20th at 11:59pm (EST).

Program Expectations/Objectives: 

  • Learn about the NEMIGLSI network and gain educational updates, information and resources in support of your stewardship education programs and efforts.
  • Network, share, and trade lessons learned with participating NEMIGLSI partners and projects; a chance to connect with educators and community partners from around our region.
  • Contribute in planning the future direction for your regional NEMIGLSI, with a focus with great lakes literacy and connections to inland schools! Your opportunity to provide input and guidance about how GLSI can better support place-based education programming in northeast Michigan!

Registration Information: 

Please share with those who may be interested in participating, and we hope you will plan to join!

  • Register online no later than Friday, October 20th. Please Log In to register.
  • No cost to participate and lunch is provided. We only request you please pre-register, as this helps us plan for meals and educational materials provided (if you have any dietary restrictions, please contact Olivia Rose, at olivia.nemiglsi@gmail.com or (989) 884-6216)
  • NEMIGLSI School participation stipends. $100/teacher  

Questions or need additional information? Please feel free to contact us by e-mail at northeastmichiganGLSI@gmail.com or phone: (989) 884-6216. 

In good tradition, we anticipate a wonderful day of networking and sharing information, resources, and new ideas among schools, educators and community partners engaged in youth development and environmental stewardship across northeast Michigan.  

The Fall Networking Meeting will be held at the following location:

Treetops Resort 
3962 Wilkinson Rd
Gaylord, MI 49735
Get Driving Directions

Evidence of prehistoric caribou hunters found below Lake Huron

Research continues this summer on a series of targets on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge in the lake.

Diver and MSU alum Tyler Schultz and 'Jake' the ROV collect samples in central Lake Huron.

Diver and MSU alum Tyler Schultz and ‘Jake’ the ROV collect samples in central Lake Huron. Photo: John O’Shea | University of Michigan Museum of Anthropologial Archaeology

In 2009 a paper was published in the National Academy of Sciences on “Evidence of Early Hunters below the Great Lakes” by researchers John O’Shea (curator of Great Lakes Archaeology at the University Of Michigan Museum Of Anthropological Archaeology) and Guy Meadows (Director of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University.) These researchers found evidence of human activity on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge in Lake Huron. This ridge during an extreme low-water phase would have provided a land causeway across the middle of modern Lake Huron linking northern Michigan with central Ontario.

The post-glacial history of the Great Lakes is characterized by a series of high and low water periods. The most extreme low-water period is referred to as the Lake Stanley stage in Lake Huron which occurred 7,000 to 11,500 years ago with lake levels 230 to 328 feet below modern lake levels. During this time period the Lake Huron basin contained two lakes separated by a ridge or causeway extending northwest to southeast across the basin from the area of Presque Isle, Mich., to Point Clark in Ontario, now known as the Alpena-Amberley Ridge.

Human occupation in the upper Great Lakes is associated with the drop in water level to the Lake Stanley stage and they inhabited an environment that was colder and drier than present with spruce-dominated forests. The researchers found that the problem in investigating these earlier time periods is that intact sites of early human occupation are extremely rare and the critical evidence exists beneath Lake Huron. Thus the researchers’ utilized surface-towed side scan sonar and remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) to determine whether human occupation sites were present on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge beneath Lake Huron.

The survey indicated evidence for the existence of hunting structures and human activity associated with the ridge and demonstrated a series of features that were consistent in form, construction, and placement with known caribou hunting structures. Stone constructions, such as caribou drive lanes, hunting blinds, and habitation sites of the kind seen in sub-arctic regions appear to be preserved on the lake bottom.

More recent research published in 2016 in Geoarchaeology by Elizabeth Sonnenburg (Stantec Consulting Ltd.) and John O’Shea who used ROV and diver surveys to get a closer look at the structures, investigate lake bottom conditions and visibility, and map the structures at close range. In addition sediment samples were collected for paleoenvironmental analysis. From this research a series of indicators, including distinct microfossil assemblages (such as species only found in sphagnum moss and boggy arctic ponds), rooted trees (tamarack and spruce), and charcoal (8,000–9,000 years old) revealed a series of microenvironments that are consistent with a subarctic climate.

Research that was led by O’Shea and published in a 2014 National Academy of Sciences paper revealed a newly discovered caribou drive lane which was the most complex hunting structure found to date beneath the Great Lakes. The drive lane site and its artifacts provided insight into the social and seasonal organization of prehistoric caribou hunting. When combined with environmental and simulation studies it was found that different seasonal strategies were used by early hunters on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge. Autumn hunting was carried out by small groups and spring hunts were conducted by larger groups of cooperating hunters.

This summer O’Shea will be leading a research project utilizing a submarine to ground-truth (determine facts by examining the ground for targets revealed by remote sensing) a series of targets, such as those described here, to further confirm their cultural origin and age.

Alpena students learn while caring for island habitats of local community park

Elementary students tackle critical Great Lakes and natural resource conservation issues, enhance their community, and enjoy a little hands-on learning along the way.

Students review debris they recovered at Rotary Island

DenBleyker and students review debris they picked up at the island.

With the sun shining and just a short walk from school, a class of energetic students recently crossed the bridge over the Thunder Bay River to Rotary Island in Alpena, Mich. These third graders from Lincoln Elementary, Alpena Public Schools were on their way to finalize a series of environmental studies and stewardship projects. This field trip culminated a year-long study inspired by their teacher Tina DenBleyker, who has opened her classroom doors into the community to enhance student learning through hands-on environmental studies.

Applying creative place-based stewardship education (PBSE) strategies, DenBleyker engages students through hands-on community connections and environmental experiences. At the heart of their project was Rotary Island – which students ‘adopted’ and in doing so built a mutually benefiting relationship with their local Alpena Rotary Club. Supported through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, this Lincoln Elementary educator and student team connected with community and conservation partners, including the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Alpena, Huron Pines AmeriCorpsMichigan State University ExtensionMichigan Sea GrantNOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuaryand U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

This project illustrates a great example of how PBSE strategies enhance learning and foster community connections through environmental stewardship studies; resulting in:

  • An engaging educational opportunity. Learning about life cycles is one example of a science learning goal for third grade students in Michigan; and what better way to learn about life cycles than exploring local monarch butterflies and their milkweed habitats. Reading and writing was another significant goal in this project both as students prepared for their projects and also as they reflected and wrote about their science explorations and findings. Students also gained valuable life skills working in teams, communicating with community partners, and leadership in implementing their projects.
  • Watershed studies resulting in environmental stewardship. Students are conducting litter pickups, planting native pollinator gardens, and a variety of other efforts that enhance and beautify this island and public park. For example, the students pick up litter and tally the items found while accomplishing marine debris monitoring and prevention goals promoted by the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program and NOAA Marine Debris program. While picking up the litter, students identified issues with fishing line – addressing this issue by partnering with Michigan Sea Grant to build and install monofilament recycling bins on the Island. Finally, their monarch lifecycle studies led to learning about pollinators and an eventual partnership with USFWS to plan and plant a native pollinator garden on the island.
  • Valued community connections and contributions. Throughout the year students met and expanded their relationship with the local Alpena Rotary Club who own and manage the island. Mary Dunckel (also an MSU Extension Educator in Alpena County) provides leadership for Rotary Club, which welcomed and supports this school partnership on the island. Students learned more about the island and ways they could help when interviewing Rotarian Patrick Heraghty (Director of Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan). This partnership benefits school improvement goals and provides a community enhancement opportunity.
Alpena Elementary School students show off their completed monofilament recycling station – one of two installed on Rotary Island. Photo: Tina DenBleyker.

Alpena Elementary School students show off their completed monofilament recycling station – one of two installed on Rotary Island. Photo: Tina DenBleyker.

DenBleyker’s vision and planning for this stewardship project started last summer during the Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute, a training sponsored by the NEMGLSI network and Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy. Here she learned about place-based stewardship education strategies; connected and traded ideas with other teachers, Great Lakes scientists and a variety of community partners; and gained resources in support of her work. DenBleyker jumped straight into PBSE programming with her students last fall with visits to the island – leveraging new partners and opportunities, navigating challenges, and celebrating successes. She shared her reflections as a new teacher getting started in PBSE during the 2017 NEMIGLSI Regional Networking Meeting. This summer she will share her experiences with new teachers as a lead teacher mentor during the very same Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute. This year’s Institute is scheduled for August 14-18, 2017, in Alpena, and teachers interested can learn more and submit applications online. Applications are due July 27.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension serve in providing leadership for the NEMIGLSI network, which is part of a larger, statewide network and partnership, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI). Established in 2007 with funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, the GLSI supports place-based stewardship education in schools and communities across Michigan. Partnerships are invaluable in our endeavor to support stewardship of our Great Lakes and natural resources. Through the NEMIGLSI network, and applied place-based education strategies, our educator partners are addressing critical Great Lakes issues.

Student video promotes awareness of Great Lakes marine debris

While plastic monsters invade Michigan’s Great Lakes and inland waterways, Alpena Elementary students create video to foster awareness of this issue among their local community.

Alpena Public Schools students get ready for action while filming their video

Alpena Public Schools students get ready for action while filming their video “Plastics 101.” Photo: RC Laugal

What is marine debris? It’s essentially human-made trash – large and small – that finds its way to oceans, our Great Lakes and inland waterways. A group of fifth-grade students from Alpena, Mich., want to help everyone understand what it is and what can be done to fight this problem. They created a movie and offer ideas about how everyone can contribute toward solutions. Watch their student-created film at: http://bit.ly/Plastics101.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has championed an initiative to foster awareness, understanding, and citizen engagement in a growing issue of marine debris in our oceans and inland waterways. Through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, and the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary are partnering with schools, educators, and youth leaders to raise local awareness about this Great Lakes problem.

How did these students get involved?

In fall 2016, Bob Thomson’s Ella M. White Elementary fifth-grade students visited Thunder Bay River, where they used nets to trawl for plastics, and were shocked to find microplastics in our Northeast Michigan watershed. After analyzing samples from the river, fifth-grader Tucker Bright said, “If there are this many microplastics in this little sample, just imagine how many there are in the Great Lakes!” To raise awareness about finding plastics in the river and finding solutions to this problem, these Alpena Public Schools students developed a film, “Plastics 101.”

Through the NEMIGLSI network, they worked with community partners, including Huron Pines AmeriCorps, Michigan Sea Grant, and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, to complete the film. The effort also was supported by DonorsChoose.org through Tom’s of Maine Green Your School Campaign.

Before filmmaking, the students researched the topic of marine debris and found that microplastics are a problem in both our Great Lakes and oceans. The students consulted with fisheries expert, Brandon Schroeder (Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant Educator), and microplastics expert, Dr. Sherri Mason (Professor of Chemistry, The State University of New York at Fredonia), to verify their research. Next, the students outlined the films’ goals and began creating a storyboard. The students also crafted props, recorded audio, captured video footage while having fun and learning.

‘Plastics 101’

The film “Plastics 101” emerged with entertaining insights into the troubles of a throwaway culture and the effects on the Great Lakes and oceans. Students also learned about potential career options while applying classroom learning goals. Thomson said, “The video provided a perfect opportunity to develop a cross-curriculum project that focused on targets from English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies.” Thomson recently was named 2017 Michigan Science Teacher Association Elementary Science Teacher of the Year.

Students also learned more about how their actions impact their community and ultimately the world. When plastics are improperly disposed, they could end up in a local stream, river, or the Great Lakes by the wind, rain, and through storm drains. Students were surprised to learn plastics absorb toxins, such as DDT, PAH and PCBs, and that these toxins can enter our food web through plastics. Since plastics don’t biodegrade, they don’t go away; they simply photodegrade into tiny pieces that can be consumed by plankton or small fish and then move up the food chain. To showcase solutions to this problem, the students highlight how to take action and protect our Great Lakes and ocean.

“Plastics 101” now will serve as an educational tool through the Northeast Michigan Earth Day Bag Project, an effort where third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders learn about the harms of single-use plastics to our Great Lakes and ocean and solutions to this growing problem. After watching a series of short films and discussing the information, students across northeast Michigan will decorate paper bags with conservation messages (e.g. Refuse to Single Use; Protect our Great Lakes), which will then be distributed to customers at local grocery stores on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension serve in providing leadership for the NEMIGLSI network, which is part of a larger, statewide network and partnership, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI). Established in 2007 with funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, the GLSI supports place-based stewardship education in schools and communities across Michigan. Partnerships are invaluable in our endeavor to support stewardship of our Great Lakes and natural resources.  Through the NEMIGLSI network, and applied place-based education strategies, our students may perhaps prove the most inspirational educators of all in addressing important Great Lakes issue such as marine debris.