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.

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.

M’lis Bartlett knew that if she wanted to create an outdoor learning space that students would actually use, she should just ask them what they would want to see.

So she began working with a ninth grade science class in February 2013 discussing environmental justice issues and ways to address them. Through a process of participatory design, they chose and began re-designing an under-utilized concrete space at the Beecher School District’s Ninth Grade Academy.

She spent ten weeks in the summer constructing an outdoor classroom space next to the school’s Moses Lacy Field House.

Bartlett asked the students to make models of the existing site and what their dream space would look like. Teachers also provided feedback. Students wanted the outdoor learning space to be used for eating lunch or hanging out before sport events. The class voted on each other’s ideas and then volunteers from University of Michigan’s Landscape Architecture program compiled those ideas into a final design.

The concrete was torn up in June and volunteers began recycling chunks of it for paver stones and inside s-shaped benches made from recycled urban Ash trees that were cut down because of Emerald Ash Borer infection. Permeable red gravel, colorful flowers, a water catchment barrel and an ADA accessible ramp were added to the site. There will be a free- standing arbor installed for shade by October. Four trees will also be planted on the space and Bartlett said an intern will work with teachers to effectively use the outdoor space and to design and plant a vegetable garden. The project was funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation and a University of Michigan Arts of Citizenship grant.

A lot of teenage space is criminalized in places like Flint or Beecher, Bartlett said. She said that Beecher students discussed how there were not many safe spaces in their community to hang out and so this was an opportunity to create one right on their school campus.

Read More →

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.

Wow, we really appreciate the positive feedback teachers and partners expressed at Saturday’s workshop on logic models and grant writing. Seeing our Discovering Place participants so engaged in workshops is enormously rewarding. But when you send compliments our way? Well, that’s the icing on the proverbial cupcake.

With that said, we’re intensely focusing on this month’s deadline for turning in mini-grant applications. I trust school project team members are looking over their applications in more depth, and working to link their logic model information to their applications. Be sure to mark any questions you have and come out to the May 17 work session so we can help.

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.

Please be sure to RSVP for next week, so we have enough food for everybody!



What makes a good place-based education project?

As teachers know, place-based education often starts with looking around and seeing how students can learn through projects in their own local environment or community.

PBE doesn’t stop there, though. Teachers put lots of thought into how projects will connect with their school or district’s primary academic objectives and how habits of mind will be developed. Ultimately, place-based learning creates strong connections between students and their surroundings to develop a sense of stewardship within youth.

At the March 21 Discovering Place workshop, educators will not only designing projects around required curriculum, they will brainstorm ways to help students develop habits of mind and stewardship through PBE.

Rebecca Nielsen, of Nielsen Education Consulting, will be guiding teachers through these concepts during the upcoming professional development session. Teachers, this is a can’t-miss opportunity to work hands-on with an environmental education expert. RSVP today!