Local youths get opportunity to connect with peers and broader community to discuss their current experiences as part of Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition’s virtual Community Forum series

SEMIS Community Forum 2019
Last year, students presented at the SEMIS Community Forum Series in person. This year's series will take place virtually. (Leisa Thompson Photography).

YPSILANTI — The Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), a nationally recognized program that has been supporting community-based education for over 13 years, is launching a virtual Community Forum Series that will give local youths a virtual way to connect with peers and the broader community.

The first forum will take place on Monday, May 18 from 2:15 to 4 p.m. via ZOOM. Additional forum event dates will be announced in the coming weeks

“All too often, schools and districts do things to students and their teachers, instead of with them,” said SEMIS Coalition Director Ethan Lowenstein, a professor of teacher education in EMU’s College of Education. “This series is designed for all those who recognize that now more than ever, we need a vision for education in which youth and teachers have the most power over what and how they learn and teach.”

The purpose of the first forum discussion is to give students a chance to describe their current lived realities, and for participants to get a sense of those realities and the implications for their own vision and actions.

The first event and future discussions will serve to center youth and teacher voices through the coming year due to the COVID-19 disruption. Future events in the series will feature teachers who are engaging their students in powerful community-based projects and youths sharing the results of these projects and teaching others the skills that they’ve learned.

The first forum event will take place in a “fishbowl” setting, a discussion activity in which students share a set of powerful questions with each other, with the broader community listening. After the student-to-student discussion, Community Forum participants will have a chance to reflect on what they are hearing and implications for their own vision and actions. The idea is to provide a structured dialogue that maximizes the “collective intelligence” of the group through the inclusion of diverse perspectives and approaches.

Those interested in participating must register by Friday, May 15 by reaching out to Lisa Voelker at lvoelker@emich.edu or Ethan Lowenstein at ethan.lowenstein@emich.edu.

The Community Forum series was created to replace the annual in-person Community Forum event that normally takes place on EMU’s campus. The first SEMIS Coalition Community Forum, which was hosted in 2011, included three students and 42 educators, friends and families. The 2019 event had 160 students, featured more than 30 youth-led presentations and was attended by more than 150 people from the community, including district superintendents, scientists and families.

The Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition supports teachers as they bridge classroom learning to the community, so that, in partnership with others, students can solve real-world problems and create positive change.

The SEMIS Coalition does this through place-based education—an immersive approach to learning that empowers students to act as environmental stewards, caring for themselves, their peers, and the land and community where they live.

Learn more about the SEMIS Coalition Community Forum from previous years by visiting the SEMIS blog.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 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; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

May 13, 2020

Written by:
Morgan Mark

Morgan Mark