July 28, 2016

EMU-led group receives federal grant to further area students' understanding of Great Lakes

Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition, directed by EMU professor Ethan Lowenstein, will use funds to help students learn to contribute as active citizens of area watersheds

YPSILANTI – A variety of students in southeastern Michigan will deepen their understanding of the Great Lakes and important principles of stewardship under a federal grant received by Eastern Michigan University this summer.

The $120,000 B-Wet grant, $75,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and $45,000 in matching funds from participating organizations and EMU, will go to the Southeastern Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS Coalition), directed by Ethan Lowenstein, a professor of teacher education at EMU with nearly two decades of experience in helping teachers and schools implement civic- and place-based education.

Students examine many issues

The SEMIS Coalition was established in 2007 by a grant from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, among others. Since then, local teachers and community organizations have helped thousands of southeast Michigan students examine brownfields and illegal dumping, design healthy habitats in urban schoolyards, study food security and explore watersheds linking them to the Great Lakes. 

Community-based learning projects motivate students to become more aware of their impact on the environment, to make responsible decisions and develop strategies to improve communities.

The project is part of a larger effort, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, which was launched by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust in 2006. The initiative seeks to increase awareness and understanding of the ecology of the Great Lakes so that Michigan’s students become active stewards of the lakes and advocates for strategies that support the long-term sustainability of the Great Lakes fisheries.

With the support of regional hubs such as the SEMIS Coalition, students work with local community groups to identify and study a local environmental issue and propose or enact solutions.

The purpose of the EMU grant is to further integrate the NOAA's “Meaningful Watershed Education Experience” into SEMIS’ professional development and coalition activities. 

Developing Great Lakes literacy

The overall objectives of the project are to:

• To help students develop a deeper understanding of the Great Lakes Literacy Principles, that is, to understand the Great Lakes’ influence on you and vice versa, and then to put those principles into practice through place-based stewardship projects,

• To sharpen students’ abilities to share their knowledge and ideas with the public.

• To provide holistic educator support for teachers to learn the content, ground their understandings in Great Lakes Literacy principles and work with students in the field. 

To date, SEMIS has received nearly $700,000 in external funding from a variety of sources, including private foundations, and federal sub grants.

SEMIS Coalition school partners include a number of K-12 schools in Detroit, as well as schools throughout southeast Michigan. SEMIS helps to partner these schools with over two dozen community partner members. Members of the Coalition who will be partners on the NOAA project include the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Michigan Sea Grant, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Friends of the Rouge, the Greening of Detroit, the Environmental Interpretive Center, the DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center, the Clinton River Watershed Council, and the Huron River Watershed Council.

 About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It currently serves 22,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

Contact Geoff Larcom, glarcom@emich.edu, 734.487.4401

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