Eastern Michigan University wins $174,690 grant through Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative

Aim is to improve environmental education in southeast MI schools

by Pamela Young, Published August 14, 2009

YPSILANTI — Eastern Michigan University has been awarded a $174,690 continuation grant from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust to expand the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS).

“It has never before been more important for communities and schools to work together to involve young people in meaningful studies of the environmental and social issues we face,” said Dr. Rebecca Martusewicz, who directs the SEMIS Coalition and is a professor in the Department of Teacher Education at EMU. 

“This funding will help develop students as citizen stewards able to understand and promote healthy ecological and social systems affecting the Great Lakes basin and their communities,” added Martusewicz. “We are honored that our funders recognize that southeast Michigan educators and community partners are dedicated to helping our young people reconnect with the places they live as they learn important content from across the disciplines.”

The SEMIS Coalition was established in 2007 by a grant from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, among others. Since then, local teachers and community organizations have helped more than 500 southeast Michigan students examine brown fields and illegal dumping, design healthy habitats in urban schoolyards, study food security, and explore watersheds linking them to the Great Lakes.  Community based learning projects motivate students to become more aware of their impact on the environment, make responsible decisions, and develop strategies to improve their communities.

The continuation grant will support the involvement of additional students from public, charter, and parochial schools in Wayne and Washtenaw counties during the 2009-2010 academic year, including Hope of Detroit Academy (a K-8 charter school in southwest Detroit), Barbara Jordan Elementary School in Detroit, Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Ann Arbor Learning Community (a K-8 charter school), Cristo Rey High School, Nsoroma Institute (an African-centered K-8 charter school) and Saline High School.

The project is part of a larger effort, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, which was launched by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust in 2006, with major support from the Wege Foundation. The initiative’s goal is to increase awareness and understanding of the ecology of the Great Lakes so that Michigan’s students become active stewards of the lakes and advocates for strategies that support the long-term sustainability of the Great Lakes fisheries. With the support of regional hubs like the SEMIS coalition, students work with local community groups to identify and study a local environmental issue and propose or enact solutions.

Through the work of the SEMIS Coalition in southeast Michigan and three other regional hubs across the state, nearly 4,200 students, 90 teachers, 30 schools, and 60 community organizations have participated in the GLSI to date. Officials at the Great Lakes Fishery Trust hope to establish more regional hubs and expand the program to more school districts.

“By changing the ways teachers teach and students learn, and engaging local communities in that change, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative is creating a new, sustainable culture of stewardship,” said GLSI Program Director Mary Whitmore.

The Great Lakes Fishery Trust is a private foundation established in 1996 to mitigate for fish damages caused by the Ludington Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Facility located on Lake Michigan. Since 1998, the GLFT has awarded over $34 million in grants to 154 projects to enhance the Great Lakes fishery. For more information about the GLFT, please visit the GLFT website at www.glft.org. For more information about the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, please visit the GLSI’s website at www.glstewardship.org.

Pamela Young

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