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Grand Valley a partner in statewide effort to immerse K-12 students in water education

  • The From Students to Stewards Initiative aims to ensure future generations are well educated about a resource so important to Michigan.

Posted on February 14, 2020

Grand Valley is partnering with state agencies in an effort to incorporate water resources education into K-12 programs in Michigan with the help of $50,000 in funding.

The goal is to cultivate the next generation of water stewards, leaders and decision-makers by immersing students in this topic area through curricula and school improvement plans, officials said. 

From Students to Stewards Initiative is a collaboration among the MiSTEM Network team based in Grand Valley's Regional Math and Science Center, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and the Michigan Department of Education.

Larry Wyn, program manager for the MiSTEM Network team at Grand Valley, said the idea is to support educators who have already started implementing water literacy programming into their curricula with an eye toward permanence. 

"Our goal is for them to have this be part of the school improvement plan and integrated into school culture, so that it's not just a field trip but a part of the K-12 student experience," Wyn said.

Those leading the effort have assembled a tool kit with resources, information and real-world opportunities for enhancing knowledge about water. As part of the program, educational teams with a community partner can apply for funding to support proposals that integrate water literacy principles into learning, with the awardees providing feedback on the took kit and suggestions for improvement, officials said.

A total of $50,000 is available to fund at least five proposals, with a maximum award of $10,000, according to a press release about the initiative. The funds are made available through the Great Lakes Protection Fund. The application deadline is March 9.

A key tenet of the initiative is place-based education, meaning getting outside the classroom and into the community to learn, Wyn said. One way that may look is a class discovering and measuring plant life at a stream behind a school.

"The focus on learning is to be out there and actually touching the water," said Wyn, who noted Grand Valley has a history of leading efforts for place-based education, making the university a logical partner in the effort.

Officials plan to create a playbook for educators that details learning activities, Wyn said. They also are looking to continually evolve the effort by refining their work and then eyeing new phases.

From a statewide perspective, this emphasis on the next generation learning more about water is crucial for a state that is defined by it, officials noted.

That focus on the next generation is at the heart of Grand Valley's partnership as well, Wyn said.

"Grand Valley's involvement shows how the university is willing to collaborate with more agencies for K-12 learning," Wyn said. "This is a multi-agency collaboration that will lead to a change in the way we do education."