For most teachers, securing funding for field trips is a challenge resulting in many great learning experiences. However, there are grant opportunities available to support field trips!


The Michigan Nature Association (MNA) offers a Nature Field Trip Grant to assist K-12 public and private educators desiring to take their students to qualified natural areas, such as select MNA nature sanctuaries, community nature centers, and other locations.


This grant will award $500 to selected grant recipients based on the quality of the application. MNA wants to help all students experience natural areas, but is especially interested in urban schools traveling to natural areas. This grant will cover bus transportation and educational supplies. This grant requires a final report once the field trip is complete.


If you are interested, please complete and submit the application by February 23, 2018. Funds, if awarded, will be dispersed by March 31. In addition, they offer grants for fall field trips during September.

Below are some online place-based education resources for teachers. These ideas are very low-to-no-cost and are meant to support curriculum you are already covering in class! These mini place-based education exercises introduce students to another learning environment that builds connections for them between what happens outside of the classroom and with in-class exercises.


Example 1: Journey North activities

Journey North is a free, Internet-based program that explores the interrelated aspects of seasonal change. For example, students discover that sunlight drives all living systems and they learn about the dynamic ecosystem that surrounds and connects them.

The site offers more than 40 activities and lesson plans for teachers to engage their students through place-based and traditional classroom settings. It also features live cams of exotic animals in their natural habitats and a free phone app for teachers to share data.

One great seasonal project is the Tulip Test Garden. This allows teachers to use the planting and growing cycles of spring to explore the changing seasons. Participants are encouraged to document their location and when the tulips emerge and bloom on Journey North’s website and compare results with other classes across the country. Visit for more information.

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As 2013 draws to a close, we are excited to announce the 2014 Discovering Place mini grant application: DP_mini grant application 2014

While most grants involve a competitive process, our grant process is designed not only to help support your projects as you get them off the ground, but to steep teams in the process of grant writing. Getting good at this vital skill means when you want to continue or expand your projects, you’ll have more options, since you’ll already be experienced in the grant-writing process.

Submission deadline is April 1, 2014.


Want to find out more about place-based education?

Visit our Discovering PLACE website to view the PBE video series and other related resources, produced by University Outreach at the University of Michigan-Flint.

The series includes:

Principles of Place-Based Education,

Building School-Community Partnerships,

PBE and Sustainable Communities,

Designing Place-Based Education Projects,

Authentic Assesment of Student Achievement,

Working Outdoors with Students,

And Connecting PBE to Curriculum Standards.

Go to to watch the videos or learn how to earn SCECHs (formerly SB-CEUs) for completing the series.

I don’t know about you, but as a middle-schooler with an attitude, I didn’t really get why I had to learn certain stuff.

Even in high school, I was leaning back in my chair asking, “Algebra? Really? How am I ever going to use this in real life?”

You’d think, now that my attitude’s better and all, that I could just simply hush up and do what I’m told without questioning why. While that happens on occasion, I still find that relevance makes a world of difference to me. I’ll bet relevance matters to you too.

For example:

  • I can more easily memorize a route when I’m the driver, not the passenger.
  • I understand what I’m reading when I know why it matters to me.
  • I’m better at coming up with a solution when I’ve experienced the problem.

See what I mean? Herein lies my love for place-based education, since PBE’s entire focus is on developing stewards by teaching youth through lessons that actually matter to them. When done right, it also helps ensure that improvements happening in a community originate with members of the community, instead of being externally imposed, which substantially improves the odds of positive change taking root for good.

I doubt that teachers would dispute the need for relevance in lesson plans, but that means taking teaching beyond the textbook. This can be messy. Depending on your comfort level in trying something new, it can be a little scary too.

That’s why we have added a page to this blog showing examples of place-based education.

Please explore these examples and lesson plans! Use them as inspiration to get started in place-based education!

Once you’ve tried out a PBE lesson, you can take it to the next level by finding out what matters to your students, then gearing lessons accordingly. Because we all tend to remember the right road when we’ve had a chance to sit in the driver’s seat.

– Elizabeth Lowe

Looking for inspiration, motivation or a look at the ideas that are currently being implemented in place-based education? Register now for the 2nd Annual Great Lakes Place-Based Education Conference, to take place Nov. 13-14, 2012 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, MI. The conference is presented by the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) .

Early registration ends Oct. 19 for the conference, which features keynote speakers Doris Terry Williams, who directs the Leadership Council and the Capacity Building Program of the Rural School and Community Trust; and nationally renowned Great Lakes nature writer Jerry Dennis. Early registrants save $15 – $25 per person.

According to the GLSI site, the two-day conference will also feature presentations on promising practices, panel discussions, forums for communities of practice, access to place-based education (PBE) resources and plenty of networking opportunities.

The Great Lakes PBE conference is especially recommended for K-16 educators and administrators who want to “forge strong partnerships with the community,” along with community leaders and representatives of foundations and organizations interested in education, environmental stewardship, youth or community development, and those who want to learn more about PBE and environmental stewardship.

A call for presenters closes Oct. 15. There are three formats for presentations, including a traditional 45-minute presentation, participation in a 45-minute forum/discussion panel, or a 5-minute/20-slide presentation on an idea, discovery, or success that can benefit others interested in PBE and environmental education.

The conference is sponsored in part by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust.

To register, sign up for a presentation or learn more about the conference or the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, click here.

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!


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.