Discovering PLACE is hosting a teacher professional development opportunity with Michigan Technical University to focus on Water Education!

Brian Doughty, Outdoor Science Investigation Field Trip Program Coordinator, will lead participants through a demonstration of the Flint Portal. During this session, participants will receive four activity kits to use with their students. Joan Chadde, the director of Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach will demonstrate how to successfully use these kits with your students. These kits will allow educators and their students to learn more about the Watershed, their drinking water, and the wastewater treatment process.



University of Michigan-Flint Northbank Center (432 N. Saginaw St. Flint, MI 48502)

Innovation Incubator (Suite 207 on the 2nd floor) Visit for driving directions


Monday, November 20, 2017

4PM – 8PM

If you have a laptop available to you, you may want to bring it to this session. Dinner will be provided. Registration is required to attend this event. Please click HERE for the online registration form. There will be a question and answer session after the presentations.

On Nov. 19, one day before the first snow storm of the season, 33 students put on gloves and picked up shovels to begin work on a duck habitat behind Flint Southwestern High School.

The 7th through 12th graders, which included a group with special needs students, cleaned up trash and dug out grass to prepare the site for the upcoming spring. The 150’ x 20’ site, began as little more than a circle of overgrown grass but as Guy, an 11th grader, explained, the students dug holes so that snow would accumulate over the winter and be retained as water for the ducks next season. He said they wanted the ducks to have a permanent home.

cp dirt

photo: Lindsay Stoddard

Families of ducks have been nesting in the high school’s interior courtyard. Previously, the students created a habitat in the courtyard for the ducks but the space is too small to nest in so it led to problems. Linda Heck and Kim Hatfield are the two teachers which have been leading these place based education projects with their students. Ducks can have up to 12 chicks at a time and over the last few years, Kim and her mother have had to transport the ducks out of the courtyard to a nearby river, one family at a time.

Read More →

Jacquie Richardson has been teaching in the Flint Community Schools for 22 years but she has seen a change in her students since implementing place based education projects three years ago. Now, her students are more engaged than ever before and taking charge of their own education.

Richardson began working with a group of Freeman Elementary third and fourth graders three years ago. The students grew their own cucumbers in the classroom and made them into pickles.

The following year, energized by their previous success, the same group of students wanted to expand their project. Richardson said her students wanted to do more than just grow vegetables so they explored how to grow bigger and more unique produce in the classroom. They settled on growing microgreens. The students were able to sell their microgreens at the Flint Farmers’ Market, which had the added benefit of providing them with a lesson in economics. By the time, she taught a unit about economics later in the semester, she said her students already grasped all of the concepts because of their previous business experience.

This most recent year has been the most inspiring yet. Richardson partnered with Flint’s Stockton Center at Spring Grove and helped her students, who are currently in sixth grade, construct a community garden onsite. The octagon-shaped garden was themed and produced vegetables and herbs to make pizza including Roma tomatoes, oregano, thyme, green peppers and mild peppers. The students visit their garden four times a year and after reading about the loss of Monarch Butterflies decided they also wanted to built a butterfly garden at Stockton Center as well. When students visit the home, they spend the entire school day there, completing both their place based work and the regular daily curriculum assignments. She said students enjoy doing schoolwork on the porch and down by the creek. The partnership has also allowed for students to get history lessons from the building’s caretakers and she said some of the kids have become “mini-docents,” giving their own tours when they visit the property.

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There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony June 4 for an outdoor classroom designed and built by Beecher ninth graders (class of 2016) last year. The outdoor space is located in a previously unused area between the Moses Lacy Field House and Beecher Administration Building on the Beecher 9GA campus, 1020 W. Coldwater Road in Mt. Morris.

M’Lis Bartlett, a University of Michigan doctoral candidate in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Justice, led the design process with students and allowed the entire class to vote on what the final space would look like. This process included teaching students Beecher history and allowing them to explore the natural environment around the school. The classroom space also acts as an alternative lunch space and gives students and families a place to relax before basketball games.

During summer 2013, Carrera, a summer job placement program, hired some of the ninth graders to help transform the concrete space into a landscaped classroom which includes benches and tables made from urban Ash tree lumber and recycled pieces of concrete.

This year’s ninth graders (class of 2017) planted flowers and vegetables in the space. A retractable awning and water catchment barrel have also been installed.

The program was funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation, a University of Michigan Arts of Citizenship grant, and the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative- Great Lakes Fishery Trust.

A reception and press conference will begin at 5 p.m. The ribbon cutting will take place at 5:45 p.m.



A celebration dinner and networking event will be held at University of Michigan- Flint’s University Center in the Happenings Room January 15 from 5:30 – 8 p.m.

Kendrick Jones, Department of Theatre and Dance and executive director of Shop Floor Theatre Company, will give a presentation about his experiences with place-based education. He will discuss the work he and the theatre company have done during 2013 to engage youth in civic dialogue about their community. SFTC has worked with Beecher 9GA, Project Citizen Youth Perspectives, Building Neighborhood Power! and the Genesee Valley Regional Center.

The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Dinner will be provided. There will also be a Parks in Focus photography exhibit on display.

Please RSVP for the free event by January 9 at or email Leyla Sanker at

The event will be held in the Happenings Room at the Harding Mott University Center (400 Mill Street). Visit for driving directions.

The celebration dinner is hosted by University of Michigan-Flint University Outreach and was made possible by generous support from the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.



Nearly 80 people attended last month’s “Our Cities, Our Classrooms” conference here on the University of Michigan-Flint campus to learn more about place-based education, which connects kids, classrooms and communities.

We are currently compiling feedback, but here’s what some attendees had to say:

“This was a wonderful conference that addressed many challenges we face in education. Thank you–it was awesome!”

“I enjoyed learning about PBE.”

“Thank you for this opportunity! I learned so much that I can bring back to my school and classroom!”

“Very interesting and helpful conference.”

“Thank you for including not just teachers but community partners too!

“Loved it!”

 While we can’t fully convey all the good stuff that happened at the conference, you can check out the presentations here. Or view the conference photos on Flickr!

Wasn’t this month’s “Our Cities, Our Classrooms” conference great? More than 80 attended, and most left pretty stoked about the idea of place-based education.

While we feel honored to be able to share the concept of PBE with others in Michigan, it’s time to turn our attention to our teachers who will actually be implementing some of the concepts discussed at last week’s conference.

That’s why we’re holding a special Kickstart session specifically for our Discovering Place teachers and their project partners, 4-8 p.m. Tues., Sept. 11, at King Karate. It is necessary for each of our teachers to attend and share their project plans with fellow educators, as well as concerns about the upcoming year. We will also be working with teachers to help successfully implement PBE projects.

Teachers, be sure to check your e-mail for more details and RSVP as soon as possible. Please let us know if your project partners will be attending too, as we will be providing a meal.

We’re so proud to be working with such fine educators. Thanks for being part of your students’ lives, and connecting your students to learning in ways that are relevant to them.


Wow! What an amazing opportunity to kick-start your school year!

Click on the pic for a smattering of what you can expect at our Aug. 23 “Our Cities, Our Classrooms” conference, here on the campus of the University of Michigan-Flint.

Along with highlights of place-based education (which links students to lessons based on their surroundings), there’s some amazing info on school gardens and nutrition. You’ll even have a chance to link technology to your school garden and check out For-Mar’s rolling truck farm!

We’re lucky to get to learn in the company of experts from across the state, including our keynote, Ryan Huppert, principal of a Grand Rapids school named among Michigan’s Top 10 by U.S. News & World Report.

If you haven’t yet registered, just click here. The conference is free, and will feature fresh local food by Hoffman’s Deco Deli. Teachers who attended the 2010 conference had great things to say, including that it was “one of the best” they’d ever attended and was “worth the drive.”

Join us next Thursday to kick off the best school year ever!

Want to start the school year with a truckload of inspiration and hands-on ideas for engaging your students?

Then don’t miss the “Our Cities, Our Classrooms” conference on Aug. 23!

The free conference features an exciting lineup of experts (see below) to help you kick-start the year with plenty of garden, outdoor and nutrition resources, ranging from theme gardens to healthy food access to incorporating technology into the outdoors. Savor free locally-grown food prepared by Flint’s own Hoffman’s Deco Deli. Take advantage of networking and the Information Fair to find out more about implementing your own school projects. Conference guests will also have a chance to check out For-Mar Nature Preserve’s rolling Truck Farm, catch a glimpse of our soon-to-be-released educational video series and, for local educators, learn how to win money to start their own school project!

Sign up here!

  • Keynote Speaker Ryan Huppert is the Administrator of Environmental Education Programs for Grand Rapids Public Schools, including the district’s hands-on Blandford School at the Blandford Nature Center, the Zoo School, and two environmental science schools which utilize place-based pedagogy. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and a Master’s Degree in Education, with certification in Science and Spanish. Huppert’s career has been influenced by many important experiences, including living and studying abroad, implementing outdoor leadership classes, leading sustainability-focused student trips to Costa Rica and serving on the United Nation’s Regional Center of Expertise in Sustainability. Huppert also serves on the board of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, and as the Principal of Grand Rapids City Middle/High School, which was named among Michigan’s Top 10 Schools this year by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Joy Baldwin is the former Food Systems Project Coordinator for the NorthWest Initiative in Lansing, where she developed, taught and managed school-based nutrition education garden programs, to motivate students to grow and eat fresh food, as well as to grasp curriculum concepts. Joy now uses her garden and artistic talents to benefit community agencies through her business, Joyful Designs.
  • Julia Liljegren is the Regional Education Advocacy Manager of the National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Regional Center in Ann Arbor. Her focus is on developing strategies to link people – especially children – with nature, advocating to implement these strategies, and cultivating collaborations to advance the ability to connect with and understand the great outdoors.
  • Dr. Norm Lownds is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University. His interest in science education, experiential learning and technology can be seen in the integration of computer applications in the 4-H Children’s Garden, as well as in his involvement in the Seeds of Science and Wonder Wall research projects.
  • Rebecca Nielsen owns and operates Nielsen Education Consulting, which specializes in science and environmental education and education program design. A former high school science teacher, she serves on the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative evaluation team and as a curriculum coach and school liaison for the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition. Rebecca is also an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University.
  • Heather Schwerin is a Master Gardener, an educator, and a Horticulture Assistant for For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum, part of the Genesee County Parks system. She currently oversees development and implementation of For-Mar’s youth horticulture programming.