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Groundswell showcases K-12 students environmental projects

June 05, 2024

Groundswell showcases K-12 students environmental projects

Since the end of the pandemic, Pinery Park in Wyoming has become a classroom for Godwin Heights Middle School teacher Bill Mull and his sixth-grade science class and the school’s Green Club.

Mull’s class has explored and studied a variety of topics about the environment — water quality, invasive species, and wildlife — thanks to the help of GVSU’s Groundswell Stewardship Initiative

"We just want to get the students to be excited and develop an understanding of what kind of impact they can have on the environment,” Mull said. “We want them to know how they can be involved in stewardship and take part in helping out the environment. There are actions that they can take that have meaningful effects for the ecosystem.”

Mull’s class and other Grand Rapids area K-12 students unveiled their work at the annual Groundswell Student Project Showcase at the DeVos Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus on May 16th, 2024. Groundswell provides resources to help teachers engage their students through place-based educational opportunities guiding toward environmental stewardship. 

“We’ve had kindergarteners to high school students participate, and I think what you always forget is how efficient and how excited they are about their projects,” said Clayton Pelon, director of GVSU’s Center for Educational Partnerships in the College of Education and Community Innovation. “That enthusiasm can lead to some really deep knowledge. They can see a way that they can directly apply what they're learning in the classroom to a local issue.”

In the case of Mull and his sixth graders, an issue in Wyoming did help stoke a study project, Mull said. "Wyoming's looking at putting a trail through the park, so the students looked at what kind of effect it would have on the wildlife,” he said. 

Mull said through the help of Groundswell, he’s creating learning opportunities for his students right in the middle of the city.

“I teach in an urban district and the access I would otherwise have to do projects like this, to do meaningful things like this, is very limited,” he said. “Groundswell provides the opportunity to do these big projects and learning opportunities while being involved with the stewardship that these kids would not otherwise have.”

Sherril Soman, Dean of the College of Education and Community Innovation, said Groundswell supported 27 local schools and more than 2,800 students for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

“Projects like these demonstrate how local efforts make a big impact and how no matter your age or background, you can make a difference in your community,” Soman told the crowd of students, teachers, and families at the event. “Our mission at the college is educating leaders and professionals to engage, enrich, and transform communities. The mission and the excellent work highlighted tonight is the reason that we've supported Groundswell since 2009.”


The article photos by Kendra Stanley-Mills show (left to right): (1) Grand Rapids Christian Elementary - Evergreen student Will Mulder, center, jokes with WGVU's Jennifer Moss, right, while being interviewed about their student project. (2) Maria Ochoa, right, stands near Grand Rapids Montessori student projects. (3) Carsen Norkus, with Kent City Elementary, visits a booth.

This story was originally posted on GVNext. For more information on this story, contact Brian Vernellis in University Communications - (616) 331-2221.

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Page last modified June 5, 2024