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Groundswell awarded grant for outdoor education experiences for GRPS students

  • As part of a Groundswell initiative, students from Crestwood Middle School in Kentwood create a native plant garden on the Steelcase campus.

Posted on December 17, 2018

A new initiative will create outdoor education experiences for all PreK-12 students in Grand Rapids Public Schools. This initiative, Grand Rapids Environmental Education Network (GREEN), received a $300,000 grant from the Wege Foundation.

Grand Valley's Groundswell initiative in the College of Education is one of many local organizations participating in GREEN, including Blandford Nature Center, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, Grand Rapids Public Museum, John Ball Zoo, Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds – Grand Valley Metro Council, Outdoor Discovery Center, Our Community’s Children, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

"Our goal is every student, every year, is outside learning," said Clay Pelon, associate director of the Center for Educational Partnerships in GVSU's College of Education and lead on the grant. "We are committed to students getting real-world experience directly tied to their classroom learning. Groundswell has supported this type of learning across West Michigan for 10 years. We are excited to create an approach that will support schools in fully embracing outdoor education."

GREEN will develop a collaborative structure to support GRPS students as a pilot program for comprehensive PreK-12 environmental education. Creating a pathway for all GRPS students will ensure that resources are proportionately allocated among buildings within the district, and will establish programming comparable to offerings of well-resourced districts, said Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.

"We are honored to be the recipients of this grant to create unique programming for all of our students," said  Weatherall Neal. "GREEN is a one-of-a-kind partnership among so many impactful organizations in Grand Rapids. Focusing their efforts on GRPS will reaffirm our commitment to being a sustainable district, ensuring every student has access to the same, and more, opportunities."

Weatherall Neal said the culminating outcome of this work is a shareable model that can be adapted to other districts interested in incorporating environmental education into their curriculum.