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.

Teachers: GLEP Registration Open

Event Date: 4/23/2018
End Date: 6/15/2018

Award-winning program advances Great Lakes literacy and stewardship among K-12 students throughout southeast Michigan.

Teachers: Register now for the 2018 Great Lakes Education Program and think spring!

The Great Lakes Education Program begins its 28th year of classroom and vessel-based education in April. More than 3,400 teachers have joined the program on the water over those years.

GLEP education provides teachers and students with an award-winning learning opportunity that includes classroom, vessel-based and shoreside education. Students are the future stewards of our incredible Great Lakes, and this is an effective and memorable way to engage them in both learning about the lakes and in developing a personal sense of stewardship. We share a common ownership of and stewardship responsibility for the lakes. Teachers can register their class to participate and help students understand how important the Great Lakes are in Michigan.

Helps meet science standards

The program helps teachers meet Michigan’s Grade Level Content ExpectationsMichigan K-12 Science Standards, and the regional Great Lakes Literacy principles. Not to mention that 95 percent of students report they felt more knowledgeable about Great Lakes science after participating.

More than 115,000 students and adults have joined the program and learned more about the Great Lakes since 1991. Designed as a collaborative effort of  Michigan State University ExtensionMichigan Sea Grant, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Great Lakes Education Program provides students, their teachers and adult chaperones with an unforgettable on-the-water learning experience. With locations on both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, it is easy for schools throughout southeast Michigan to participate.

Register now

Registration is now open for the spring 2018 Great Lakes Education Program season, which runs from mid-April through mid-June. For more complete information on the program, the spring season calendar, locations, cost, and how to register go to the Great Lakes Education Program website.

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.

New book about amphibians and reptiles a good read

“Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region, Revised Edition” offers readers a glimpse into the world of herpetofauna

An American Toad is one of the Great Lakes amphibians featured in a newly revised book. Photo: Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant

An American Toad is one of the Great Lakes amphibians featured in a newly revised book. Photo: Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant

Growing up in Michigan, I recall encounters with some special amphibians and reptiles including Spring Peepers in the Les Chenaux Islands, Eastern Fox Snakes along the Lake Erie shoreline, Mudpuppies, and Blanding’s Turtles in the Detroit River and American Toads on Isle Royale. Recently I read a newly revised edition of the book, “Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region,” by James H. Harding and David A. Mifsud, which helped me learn even more about the creatures I’ve seen over the years.

The book includes range maps, photos and other key information for each reptile and amphibian species known to occur naturally within the Great Lakes basin along with limited information for marginal and questionable species. Also included are definitions to help readers understand these often mysterious and misunderstood species.

Are you a herp-watcher?

Readers will learn that herpetology is the scientific study of amphibians and reptiles while herpetofauna is used to describe amphibians and reptiles occurring in a defined geographic area, and that amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians and reptiles include turtles, tortoises crocodilians, lizards, snakes and tuatara.

The concept of “herp-watching” (think bird-watching but substitute animals with feathers for those with scales, slimy skin or shells) is also discussed. This recreational hobby offers an alternative to keeping amphibians and reptiles as pets. Herp-watchers can also play an important role in protection and conservation by documenting observations using web and mobile apps such as the Michigan Herp Atlas.

Management strategies considered

The conservation section for each species explains the animal’s relationship with humans such as economic importance, population trends, threats posed by human activities and possible management strategies. One of the things I found interesting in the habitat and ecology section was the feeding behaviors of some of the species, particularly those that rely on smell and sound to detect prey. I especially liked reading about the Kirtland’s snake because, although its range includes where I live in southeast Michigan, I had never even heard of the species. This little secretive snake lives most of its life below ground in burrows constructed by other animals or under leaf piles, rocks and logs and can flatten itself and become immobile when threatened.

Harding and Mifsud have compiled a wealth of herpetofauna information of use as a reference to non-specialists as well as professional herpetologists. I would recommend this book to anyone with a curiosity about or passion for amphibians and reptiles.

Apply Now for NOAA Teacher at Sea Program

Event Date: 11/30/2017

For more than 25 years, teachers have traveled aboard NOAA research vessels around the world through the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program. Applications for 2018 are now being accepted.

June Tiesas (left) is on deck the Oregon II during her Teacher at Sea program with NOAA.

June Tiesas (left) is on deck the Oregon II during her Teacher at Sea program with NOAA. Courtesy photo

Are you a teacher who is interested in learning more about our world ocean and sharing that knowledge with your students and colleagues? Are you excited about the opportunity to engage in ocean research alongside of NOAA research scientists and other teachers from around the country who share your interests? And would you like to do so at NO COST? If the answer is yes, NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program may be just what you’ve been looking for!

Teacher at Sea (TAS) has involved nearly 700 teachers since it began in 1990, with participants representing all 50 states. Eight from Michigan have participated over the past decade alone. Applicants may be classroom teachers (Pre-K through grade 12, community college, college or university), aquarium or museum educators, or adult education teachers. Teacher at Sea participants are typically on board one of NOAA’s research vessels for approximately two weeks and may participate in one of three cruise types: fisheries research, oceanographic research, or hydrographic surveys.

In 2015, June Teisan, a middle school science teacher at Harper Woods Secondary School in Harper Woods, Mich., who has collaborated with Michigan Sea Grant Extension on a number of education projects, was a Teacher at Sea on board the NOAA Ship Oregon II in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Teaching is an other-centered profession. We pour out our time and talents, passion, and praise moment by moment, hour upon hour, day after day. It’s what we love to do but it can be draining. So when the well of inspiration and energy runs dry how does a hard-working educator refuel? For me, self-selected professional development has been one way that I recharge my teaching batteries,” she states. “Over my career I’ve participated in a wide range of webinars, ed camps, conferences and internships, but one of the most powerful experiences was my time as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. Working side by side with top flight researchers 24/7 out beyond sight of land fed my inner science geek, challenged me to grow beyond the city-based bubble in which I’m comfortable, offered me a glimpse behind the scenes of NOAA’s critical role in maintaining the health of our fishery stocks, and gave me the opportunity to share this experience with my students through blog posts and connections to STEM professionals.”

NOAA wants teachers to understand how NOAA research is linked to the Next Generation Science Standards and Ocean Literacy Principles, and pathways leading to NOAA careers. They hope that as TAS alumni, teachers will use NOAA data and resources in their teaching and with colleagues. And they believe that the Teacher at Sea Program will develop an understanding of earth system science while building a workforce for STEM careers.

Applications for 2018 are now being accepted, and the deadline is November 30, 2017. Guidance on how to apply and program FAQs are available on the Teacher at Sea website.

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

networking.jpg

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

Students team up with Michigan Sea Grant to protect native fish

A threatened fish called the River Redhorse is the latest subject of the Native Fish Heroes poster series.

The River Redhorse suffers from a case of mistaken identity. Even though it is a native fish that requires clean flowing rivers, many people mistake the River Redhorse for invasive carp or other native suckers that can tolerate polluted water. In fact, the River Redhorse is listed as a threatened species in Michigan and is only found in a handful of large, rocky rivers.

Students participating in the Lakeshore Environmental Education Program (LEEP) at Walden Green Montessori School in Ferrysburg had a chance to get to know the River Redhorse this spring. They learned how to identify closely-related species and teamed up with Michigan Sea Grant to teach others why the River Redhorse is so rare.

Guilt by association

The River Redhorse is one of six species of redhorse sucker living in Michigan waters. Some of the other species are very common, and fishing regulations allow for unlimited harvest of other sucker species using a variety of gear including spears, bows and arrows, certain types of nets, and hook-and-line. Suckers are bony but very good to eat when canned or ground. Unfortunately, the River Redhorse is easily mistaken for other species and is sometimes harvested along with other sucker species.

Worse yet, some people mistakenly believe River Redhorse are a harmful or invasive species. They get to be fairly big (over 30 inches long) and could be confused with invasive common carp. Perhaps this is one reason why River Redhorse are sometimes left on the bank to rot.

River Redhorse need clean-swept rocky areas to spawn. Many large rivers suffer from pollution in the form of silt and sand that washes in from eroding banks, city streets, and agricultural land. This “nonpoint source” pollution can smother eggs and also harms native filter-feeding mussels. The River Redhorse feeds heavily on native mussels, and the decline of mussels in many areas of the eastern United States may be one reason for the rarity of River Redhorse.

Big rivers are also subject to development for flood control, navigation, and hydro power.  Channelization removes important shallow-water spawning area and dams restrict the movement of fish. This can block River Redhorse from reaching historic spawning grounds, but some dams also restrict the movement of harmful invasive species.

Even though River Redhorse are not common anywhere, there are three Michigan river systems that still provide good habitat and support breeding populations: the Muskegon River, St. Joseph River, and Grand River.

Students at Walden Green attend school near the mouth of the Grand River, one of the last places in Michigan to find River Redhorse. By highlighting threats and suggesting ways that people can help to keep our rivers clean, the students hope to help protect this local treasure. They even came up with a “Rockin’ River Redhorse” theme poster, which emphasizes the fish’s need for clean, rocky habitat.

The River Redhorse poster is the second in Michigan Sea Grant’s Native Fish Heroes poster series. The Lake Sturgeon was the first poster created, and other teachers around Michigan have expressed interest in tackling Cisco, Smallmouth Bass, and Burbot. If you teach at a K-12 school and have a local connection to one of our fascinating native fish species, contact Michigan Sea Grant for additional details.

Download poster Big rivers, big problems

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.

Schoolship offers many students their first boating experience

Great Lakes Education Program now registering classrooms in southeast Michigan to join the fun.

Thousands of students in southeast Michigan have participated in the Great Lakes Education Program. Registration for 2017 is now open. Photo: Steve Stewart | Michigan Sea Grant

Thousands of students in southeast Michigan have participated in the Great Lakes Education Program. Registration for 2017 is now open. Photo: Steve Stewart | Michigan Sea Grant

If you are a teacher in southeast Michigan and want to introduce your students to the Great Lakes, what should you do? Participating in the Great Lakes Education Program, which begins its 27th year of classroom and vessel-based education in April, is a sure way to accomplish your goal.

If you value the effectiveness of combining classroom and out-of-classroom learning, you’ll want to be a part of this award-winning program. If you appreciate how important the Great Lakes are to all of us, and that we share a common ownership of and stewardship responsibility for the lakes, you can be sure this program will make a big impact on students.

Teachers who have already participated report that it does an excellent job of helping them meet Michigan’s Grade Level Content Expectations, Michigan K-12 Science Standards, and the regional Great Lakes Literacy principles, and that 95 percent of their students felt more knowledgeable about Great Lakes science after participating.

Nearly 110,000 students and adults have learned more about the Great Lakes since 1991 by participating in the Great Lakes Education Program. Designed though a collaboration involving Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the program provides students, their teachers and adult chaperones with an unforgettable on-the-water learning experience. With locations on both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, it is easy for schools throughout southeast Michigan to participate.

Registration is now open for the spring 2017 Great Lakes Education Program season, which runs from mid-April through mid-June. For more complete information on the program, the spring season calendar, our locations, cost, and how to register, simply go to the Great Lakes Education Program website. We look forward to having you join us in 2017 as we continue our education focusing on the Great Lakes.

Northeast Michigan place-based education network explores Environmental-STEM learning opportunities

School and community partners from the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative explore how environmental-STEM learning can support student engagement in Great Lakes stewardship.

MSU Extension educator Tracy D'Augustino (standing) works with teachers during the recent Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network meeting. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

MSU Extension educator Tracy D’Augustino (standing) works with teachers during the recent Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network meeting. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Imagine students spending an entire year studying marine debris and auditing their school cafeteria to learn about single-use versus reusable plastics – and then getting really excited to share their results with their entire school and community. This is just one example of a school project success story teachers learned about during a recent conference.

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network partnership supports place-based stewardship education and connects schools with community partners, educators and youth seeking to enhance their learning through Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship projects.

Last month, more than 75 educators and community partners celebrated successes through this partnership during the 12th annual regional NEMIGLSI network meeting held in Alpena, Michigan. Facilitated by Michigan State University Extension (Michigan Sea Grant and 4-H Youth), NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Huron Pines AmeriCorps— among other leadership partner, this regional meeting serves to strengthen school-community partnerships across the region. Educators from more than a dozen schools came together with community partners to share educational presentations, trade resources and explore new ideas.

This year’s meeting offered an opportunity to celebrate a recent international Innovative Education award recognizing the NEMIGLSI network’s excellence in engaging students in environmental-STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning experiences. This award from UL (underwriter laboratories) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) reflects how northeast Michigan students are applying their e-STEM learning in accomplishing meaningful stewardship projects of importance to their local communities. Christiane Maertens, Deputy Director from NAAEE, kicked off this year’s meaning as keynote speaker addressing the importance of this effort to engage youth, through their e-STEM learning, in environmental stewardship projects locally.

Engaging youth as community partners and leaders is a core principle for the NEMIGLSI network, and this meeting looked to cross-tie a series of new Guiding Principles for Exemplary Place-Based Stewardship Education (PBSE), a set of principles co-developed in collaboration with the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and nine statewide GLSI network hubs with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Drawing on the expertise of local NEMIGLSI network educators, the day’s educational panel presentations also included perspectives toward e-STEM learning applied in context of PBSE guidelines and best practices. These panelists shared as follows:

  • Setting the focus: Community as the classroom (Tina Denbleyker, Lincoln Elementary, Alpena Public Schools) – Denbleyker has recently engaged her students in exploring local pollinator habitats along the Thunder Bay River within the city limits of Alpena. She shared how easy it was to take students on exploratory walks within their own community, connect pollinator (monarch butterfly) studies with important learning objectives like life cycles, and to connect with community partners. The city welcomed her student explorations, and even changed mowing practices to protect important pollinator habitats identified by students.
  • Foundations for Place-Based Teaching: Team teaching, school culture, and community collaborations (Mike Berenkowski, Tim Lee, Matt Hinckley, and Matt McDougall, Oscoda Area Schools) – This Oscoda school educator team has excelled in integrating PBSE practices as a core educational strategy in their school. They shared a wide variety of projects that connected students with community partners, engaged students in environmental stewardship, and enhanced learning goals for their school. These educators stressed the importance of team teaching, coordinating with school administrators, and communicating student projects successes with community.
  • Foundation for Place-Based Learning: Interdisciplinary opportunities in Shipwreck Alley (John Caplis, Alpena High School) – An Earth Science class, Caplis has designed his Shipwreck Alley course as a community-centered and interdisciplinary learning experience for students. His class incorporates history and social studies, Great Lakes science and ecology, and student leadership in community development projects such as the Great Lakes fisheries heritage exhibit in development with the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan. Caplis centers his student studies on their local community and Great Lakes resources – from which many hands-on and interdisciplinary learning opportunities arise for students.
  • Deepening the Impact: One issue, many projects, lots of learning (Alecia Deitz, All Saints Catholic School) – A simple question centered on the issue of marine debris in the Great Lakes launched Deitz into a year-long learning opportunity with students. Students conducted class cafeteria audits for single-use versus reusable plastics, and after collecting data, they hosted a schoolwide assembly where they highlighted the impact of the marine debris on the environment and shared the collected weekly tally for single-use plastics. Expanding their work into the community, students presented their research during the Thunder Bay International Film Festival and partnered in the NOAA Students for Zero Waste Week. Their efforts continued into student-led litter clean-up efforts and culminated with a student-planned Friday Earth Day Celebration complete with a ‘Trashion’ show. Most impressively, the artwork of Malley M., a 2015-16 eighth-grade student at All Saints Catholic School local youth leader was featured in the national 2017 NOAA Marine Debris Calendar. Deitz’s students illustrate how one Great Lakes issue can lead to lots of learning and many student leadership opportunities.

As part of the event, participants also learned about zero waste strategies as drink and food containers were reused or recycled and food waste and paper products were collected for composting. Less than a grocery bag of trash resulted from this meeting including more than 75 people attending.

In 2017, supported by Great Lakes Fishery Trust’s Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative funding, the NEMIGLSI network served 32 schools, supported 110 educators, and engaged 5,155 youth in place-based stewardship education experiences. These project partnerships show how place-based stewardship education strategies can enhance school and student learning through hands-on science learning in their community. This regional meeting reflected on these accomplishments, discussed upcoming opportunities, and engaged participants in planning toward a brighter future for the NEMIGLSI network.