GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — Grand Haven Area Public Schools elementary students recently partnered with Grand Valley State University’s Groundswell program to help protect the Grand River watershed.
The partnership supports Groundswell’s Stewardship Project, which encourages learning outside the classroom and engages students in community-based learning to protect the Grand River and the Great Lakes, a news release said Thursday.
Students from Ferry Elementary, The Voyager School and Peach Plains Elementary were asked the driving question, “How can we protect our watershed?”
From there, students visited Pottawatomie Park and East End Park and met with field experts to learn more about the watershed before beginning their investigation.
“We love hands-on learning opportunities that get our students out of the classroom,” said Andrew Ratke, a STEM teacher in the district. “This stewardship project educated students and raised awareness of the importance of the local watershed by allowing them to explore areas in each school’s own backyard.”
Students worked individually or with partners and explored topics ranging from invasive vs. native species, changes in water levels and temperature, pollution affecting plants and animals and impacts on the local reptile and amphibian populations.
The project was designed to “foster ownership of learning through curiosity and exploration.” Teachers facilitated background and focus, while students actively asked questions and sought answers through their investigation.
“Any time students can get outdoors and learn from nature, it’s an opportunity to teach them a lifelong love and respect of our natural resources,” said Missy Mayer, a fourth-grade teacher at Peach Plains Elementary. “They start to understand why it’s so important to protect and conserve what we have. Our hope is to instill empathy for our environment and empower the students to teach others to take care of the Earth, too.”
Final findings were presented to fellow classmates and at the virtual Groundswell Showcase evening.