STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) literacy is a powerful tool in today’s world, and a critical focus in many classrooms. Many of the projects that students undertake through the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative involve one or more of the STEM subjects.
Recently, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative was named as one of only four Michigan-based organizations that provide exemplary STEM programs for Michigan’s K–12 schools. The designation came from Change the Equation/STEMWorks, a national organization that conducts rigorous reviews of STEM programs across the country.
This past November, a team of 10 students from Houghton Middle School in Houghton, Michigan, won the Lexus Eco Challenge in the Land and Water category with their “Backyard Backlash” project.
Houghton Middle School works with the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, a regional hub of the GLSI. Their winning project focused on surface and groundwater contamination. The group studied the impact of common lawn and garden maintenance habits, roadside grass seeding projects, and agricultural practices, all of which involve nitrate fertilizers. Team members identified ways that individual families’ actions impact water quality, even in their own backyards.
The winners conducted experiments, gathered information, suggested strategies to reduce the impacts of nitrates on water quality, recruited other young people to get involved, and presented results and recommendations to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
With 38 schools, Michigan leads the nation in the number of schools in which place-based education is an embedded instructional practice, is well established in school culture, and is expected to persist. All 38 schools participate in the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.
The state-by-state list of schools was produced by national scholar Dr. Greg Smith, in partnership with the Teton Science School. Michigan’s 38 schools are nearly double that of Oregon, which is next on the list. Some states have only two or three schools on the list, and other states have none.
The Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative is helping teachers develop ever-stronger, enduring place-based teaching practices. And we’re inspiring schools to make policy changes that confirm a persistent commitment to place-based education as a powerful practice.