More than 25 young people from the Boys and Girls Club are spending a portion of their Summer learning about environmental issues and careers in resource sciences through UM-Flint’s University Outreach.
The group of 16 to 19 year olds is being paid through the DNR’s Summer Youth Employment Initiative to learn about issues, such as recycling and watershed quality, through a series of lectures, activities and field trips. These students are leaders at the local Boys and Girls Club and will share their knowledge and activities they learn with younger members.
One day a week, the group has been meeting on the university campus with University Outreach staff members, who lead the program.
In its first week, Program Coordinators Leyla Sankar and Sara McDonnell asked the students what they would like to learn about during their visits. The young people responded that they were interested in local recycling, the city of Flint’s current master planning process and a host of other issues.
The students learned about the Flint River watershed and how different types of pollution get into the ground water. Using crumpled balls of newspaper, a piece of plastic, food coloring, candy sprinkles and spray bottles of water, they were able to simulate how pollution and fertilizers can move throughout an environment. The young people were also given a walking tour of the Riverbank Park.
On the second week, Holly Lubowicki, Keep Genesee County Beautiful, and Carl Thompson, Genesee County Metro Planning Commission, spoke with the teenagers about recycling. Lubowicki did a “dumpster dive” activity where she asked them to identify different items that may normally be thrown away and decide whether an item can be reused, recycled or if it is hazardous and should not go into the garbage or the recycling bin. She also gave a demonstration of products that were made from recycled materials.
Carl Thompson, a planner, spoke about his job with the county, which deals with infrastructure and various other environmental concerns. Thompson explained that 90 percent of our trash can be recycled and showed students a video about what happens after the recycle bin is picked up off the curb. He also told them that there are two hazardous waste collections per year in the city.
Students were taken on a field trip to the Grand Blanc landfill off U.S. 23 and given a tour by Manager Bob Thornton, Republic Services. The landfill uses methane produced naturally by rotting garbage as a source of electricity and can generate 5 megawatts of power, which is enough to power 4,000 homes.