By Jan Worth-Nelson
Hundreds of area students and their teachers will have a chance to learn about and care for water resources, especially the Flint River, thanks to a new federal grant received recently by the Flint River Watershed Coalition (FRWC).
A $74,000 grant to support youth-based water quality programs involving 1,200 students in 22 school districts was awarded to the FRWC by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET).
The funds will support development and implementation of a new initiative called the Flint River Green Bridges program. It will be an expansion of the existing Flint River GREEN water quality monitoring activities.
A pilot group of sixth- to eighth-grade teachers from seven schools will implement the program during the 2019 – 2020 school year.
The 18-month project is designed “to bridge communities, classrooms, curriculum, and careers,” according to the announcement from the FRWC.
“This place-based stewardship education program will empower youth to draw on personal experiences to shift their relationship to and understanding of our water resources, particularly with the Flint River,” Program Manager Autumn Mitchell stated..
The program will begin with a 10-week cross-curricular unit of study for teachers.
Other schools within the Flint River watershed will have access to the materials and training in subsequent years. All resources developed through the grant will be publicly available online for anyone interested in implementing a similar program in other watersheds, FRCW Executive Director Rebecca Fedewa said.
The project is a partnership with the University of Michigan – Flint’s “Discovering PLACE,” the Flint hub of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.
Fedewa added, “We’re very excited to bring this expanded program to the students and teachers of the Flint River Watershed. Bridges will ensure our students have access to cutting edge curriculum that helps prepare them for academic success while encouraging the next generation of stewards of our water resources.”
She said the program will “fully immerse students in Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences (MWEEs) that allow them to identify and investigate locally relevant water quality topics and participate in outdoor field research. She explained (MWEEs are multi-stage activities that include learning both outdoors and in the classroom, and aim to increase the environmental literacy of all participants.)
Students will apply what they learn through projects they design and lead, and will share their experiences with parents, students from other schools, decision makers, and community leaders at the annual GREEN Student Summit.
Bridge students “explore their connection to local and global waterways, contribute to ongoing data collection, and learn about possible career trajectories in science, technology, community engagement, and project management,” Fedewa stated.
According to its website, NOAA’s B-WET program is a competitive grant program promoting MWEEs, activities driven by rigorous academic learning standards to increase understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ecosystems. For more about the NOAA’s B-WET program, go to http://www.noaa.gov/office-education/bwet.
As described on its website, Discovering PLACE at UM-Flint works to advance and support place-based education initiatives in the region. It is is a collective of Flint-area K-12 schools, university faculty and staff, community organizations, and parents working to connect young people to their communities. https://www.umflint.edu/outreach/discovering-place
The Flint River Watershed Coalition works within its several partnerships to “protect, promote, and improve the Flint River and its watershed.” For more about the FRWC and the existing Flint River GREEN program, go to www.FlintRiver.org.
Banner photo of kayakers on the Flint River by Walt Peake.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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