Connecting Students to STEM and Stewardship through Water and Wonder!
The Flint River Watershed Coalition’s Youth Education Program recently piloted a new afterschool program in collaboration with the Genesee Intermediate School District’s (GISD) 21st Century Community Learning Center’s Bridges to Success program and Genesee County Parks’ For-Mar Nature Center and Arboretum. We worked with three sites serving middle and high school students and developed an out-of-school time (OST) watershed STEM curriculum grounded in water quality monitoring and related data-driven and youth-led community action projects.
YOUTH ACTIVITIES INCLUDE:
- Hands-on STEM Activities
- Outdoor Immersion Experiences
- Youth-led Action Projects
- Water Quality Monitoring
Atherton Jr./Sr. High School, Genesee Jr. High School, and Mt. Morris Middle and High School students in the GISD’s Bridges to Success program joined For-Mar educators in their school yards for two hours after school once per week throughout the fall of 2020 and for four hours each day for a week during the summer of 2021 to participate in hands-on activities that explored their connection to a local stream. Students followed raindrops through the water cycle along the path from their school rooftops to the river and on to the Great Lakes. They designed their ideal communities and drew connections between humans and water throughout these. Together with their adult peers, students processed water chemistry samples and looked closely at the life this water sustained.
As students observed their surroundings throughout the project, they found litter to be an issue of interest and began exploring possible solutions. In the first year, students designed, produced, and distributed awareness decals to share with their families and peers.
In 2021, the students approached their district administrators and gained permission to stencil the storm drains on school grounds to help discourage littering.
In celebration of their accomplishments, the youth who participated in the program invited their families and friends to join them at a Thread Lake within the City of Flint which is connected to the Flint River. This allowed them to share with others what findings they learned about the river, which included that it is a valuable social, economic, and environmental resource for the community. Students shared their new STEM skills and outreach efforts with their families and took them kayaking on the lake.
The organizations above in partnership with Discovering PLACE, Michigan State University Extension, and the MiSTEM Network have been in collaboration since 2019 to construct a framework for professional development that cross-trains staff and engages students in Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences in the OST environment. This mutually beneficial staff training has expanded capacity, increased the sustainability of multiple community partnerships, and serves as a resource for others seeking to utilize freshwater place-based enrichment to strengthen OST programming.
Funding for this project has been provided by the National Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is supported by the U.S. Department of Education.
The partnerships developed through this project will lead to sustainable OST programming options for schools, scouts, churches, neighborhood groups, and more!
This program is now available to other OST providers. Contact the Education Programs Manager for questions: email Autumn Mitchell or dial (810)-767-9491.