Discovering PLACE, University Outreach’s place-based education initiative, recently held its first community exchange event, “Students Growing Roots”.
The event, held May 9, 2011 at downtown Flint’s Riverfront Banquet Center, drew more than 100 Flint-area students who got involved with Discovering PLACE this year. The students, their families and school staff members gathered to share their success stories.
“But what also became apparent was the supportive community culture that has been created through these projects,” said Danielle Gartner, Discovering PLACE coordinator.
Students alternated between presenting their own school projects and attending other students’ presentations. McMonagle Elementary second-graders made cookbooks and shared recipes featuring produce varieties being grown in the school’s hydroponic garden, while Tucker Elementary kindergartners from Shelly Roberts’ class acted out “The Carrot Seed” story by Ruth Krauss, dramatizing how the seed was watered and weeded until a carrot grew. Between acting out the play and their own courtyard garden experience, students have now memorized a sequence of gardening steps.
Some of the children were impressed by Beecher High School students big-screen presentation on the school’s recently opened nature trail, said Roberts, noting the high school students have now become role models to her kindergartners, who aim to use the big screen themselves someday. Educators also used the bus trip to point out local features, including the Flint River.
Along with the opportunity for students and staff to compare notes, the exchange drew members of the Flint community attending a nearby University of Michigan-Flint event. Of the guests attending the Annual Gathering of the Flint River Corridor Alliance , who came out to hear environmental journalist Bill McKibben, approximately 30 stayed to learn more about the school projects and offer support. “We were once in your shoes,” they told students.
“What was really exciting,” said Gartner, “was seeing students connecting with their communities, teachers encouraging each other and parents coming out to support the work.”
High school students also toured the UM-Flint campus and were invited to hear McKibben at a university-sponsored Critical Issues Forum luncheon, while elementary students were treated to a drawing lesson by Michigan illustrator Wendy Halperin (www.drawingchildrenintoreading.com).
Discovering PLACE is a resource to help Flint-area urban schools create hands-on curriculum projects to connect youth with their communities. Discovering PLACE offers mini-grants, teacher resources and a network of support for educators to establish these projects. One of eight hubs in the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, Discovering PLACE operates through University Outreach at the University of Michigan-Flint.