Michigan classrooms gain access to hands-on help for learning conservation science

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The Watershed Non-Point Source EnviroScape® model demonstrates water pollution. Image: Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

By Kayla Nelsen

Michigan students now can test watershed quality and model how groundwater flows in three dimensions with a new state classroom initiative.

The Environmental Education Resource Lending Station became available in early December to Michigan educators through the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Classroom Initiative. The project was funded by a grant awarded in 2020 by the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to promote the restoration of the Great Lakes, said the agency’s environmental education support officer, Christina Pearce.

The tools in the resource library were designed to be used with the environmental curriculum taught in grades three through 12, Pearce said. There are seven Michigan-specific units in the curriculum that focus on air quality, climate change, ecosystems, energy resources, land use and water quality.

“The goal of the lending station is to help provide playspace education for the next generation,” Pearce said.

The resource library is available to both teachers and conservation education groups in the state, said Eileen Boekestein, environmental education coordinator at the state environment agency.

“Environmental education is really for people of all ages. You don’t get to a point where you just know everything. You’re always learning more and learning how you can make a difference,” Boekestein said.

Educators can fill out a form on the Lending Station web page to borrow the materials. Available for check-out are several different three-dimensional models of the Great Lakes watershed, a sand and gravel simulator and a backpack water testing lab. Upon check-out request, the items will be sent to the nearest district office for the requestor to pick up, Pearce said.

The simulators do not exclusively focus on demonstrating environmental problems, Boekestein said. “What’s great about the Lending Station is that it’s really focused on not just educating about the problem, but also educating about solutions,” Boekestein said.

Weekly instructional videos and materials for each resource can be found on the department’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Educators may also subscribe to a monthly newsletter for additional information and resources on environmental education.

“We’re looking at every opportunity to get these materials out to the public,” Pearce said.

An instructional video on how to use the Watershed Non-Point Source EnviroScape® model. Video: Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

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