Faculty members of UM-Flint involved in K-12 education are invited to a Discovering PLACE celebration dinner, to be held 5-7 p.m. Dec. 14, 2011 at the Harding Mott University Center. Registration starts at 5 p.m., and the event kicks off with a 5:30 p.m. hors d’oeuvre reception in the University Center lobby, followed by a 6 p.m. buffet dinner by Fandangles’ , served in the Happenings Room.

What are we celebrating? An outstanding group of Flint-area teachers and community partners who have been working with Discovering PLACE, a University Outreach program that launched in 2009.

This year, the group helped local students learn through several hands-on projects that involved growing their own food, creating an outdoor trail and removing an invasive species to preserve a pond. In the process, students developed a sense of stewardship.

Local schools face a host of demands, making it especially challenging to carry out projects that exceed everyday curriculum requirements. These tasks also require the backing of school administrators and organizations such as the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, which support the efforts of Discovering PLACE.

Dr. Don Hammond, a Beecher High School science teacher involved in the projects, was recently named one of 20 Chevrolet GREEN Educators in the nation. Nominated by representatives of Earth Force, Hammond drew media attention when GM staff awarded him the use of a Chevy Volt for his classroom to study.

The Dec. 14 event is also a rare opportunity to hear Matthew Washington, Executive Director at the Friends of the High School for Environmental Studies in New York. Along with addressing diversity in the environmental field, Washington will bring firsthand insights on the benefits of exposing students to a range of settings.

“People talk about diversity, and that’s typically associated with race or gender,” said Washington. “Certainly racial diversity is important, but diversity of the mind is also important, a diversity of experiences.”

Matthew Washington

While most of Washington’s childhood was set among the concrete structures of New York City, he grew comfortable outdoors during trips to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Washington was one of the early graduates of the High School for Environmental Studies, one of the first schools of its kind in the country. Later, he served as a mentor for the school’s Friends program. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Alfred University in Comparative Cultures, with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology, Washington became heavily entrenched in the area by serving on community boards.

Before being named Executive Director of the Friends, Washington served as Deputy Director of the Friends of Hudson River Park, a group that transformed an old pier into a flourishing public park. Washington is also part of an effort to create an open-air market in Harlem.

Childhood exposure to diverse settings can be life changing. For Washington, it impacted his career choice. Washington sees a profound effect in others too, including the students of the High School for Environmental Studies who participate in the school’s extended outdoor trips. The students has been so affected by the experience that it became part of each student’s college admission essay.

Tickets for the celebration dinner are free but limited. If you have an interest in the Discovering PLACE program and would like to attend, please RSVP by Dec. 9 to Barb Urlaub at urlaubb@umflint.edu or (810) 424-5486.

The University of Michigan-Flint has created a promotional video highlighting the array of community partnerships our students, faculty and staff have cultivated over the past year. Much of Outreach’s work is featured in the video including the Cass River Greenway project.

Outreach staff and community partners Bill Zehnder and Bob Zeilinger, were interviewed on location along the Cass River at Beyer Road. Our community partners were asked to share their story on what it means to be a partner with the University, and the importance of partnering to achieve a common goal.

[youtube width=”850″ height=”550″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfyK2-TdyLQ[/youtube]

 

In an effort to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income individuals and families, University of Michigan-Flint’s University Outreach partnered with Mid Michigan Community Action Agency to coordinate seven community gardens across central Michigan. Mid Michigan Community Action Agency is a non-profit, human services agency serving Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Mecosta, Midland and Osceola Counties since 1966.

Overall, over 45,000 square feet of garden space was planted in Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Mecosta, Midland and Osceola Counties with the collaboration of several local agencies.  The seven gardens produced more than 6,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables including potatoes, greens, cabbage, tomatoes, melons, peppers, brussels sprouts, eggplants and beets that were distributed throughout mid-Michigan.

In addition to providing fresh produce, the gardening project offered educational opportunities to learn about growing food and cooking healthy foods using fresh produce.  A few workshops were held throughout the mid-Michigan region in hopes of encouraging more home gardens.  University of Michigan-Flint students were also involved in the project.  A group of four communication majors designed a comprehensive communication plan for the gardening project as a service-learning component to their Senior Seminar.

University Outreach and Mid Michigan Community Action Agency community gardens grew and distributed over 6,000 lbs of fresh produce to low-income families!

The 2009 growing season also marked a new partnership with the MichiganWORKS! Summer Youth Employment Program.  MichiganWORKS! supported central-Michigan youth, ages 17-22, in their provision of daily care for four of the gardens while MMCAA and UM-Flint’s University Outreach provided oversight for their summer of work.  When asked about their interest in gardening, the youth said that they were happy to be learning gardening skills, responsibility, and teamwork.  One youth was particularly surprised to find out that gardening was more exciting that he had anticipated: “I thought it was going to be boring but it isn’t.  Now I know that if I get bored or hungry, I can grow my own food.”

 

Originally created by Rebar, a San Francisco art and design collective, Park(ing) Day is an annual, one-day, global event where artists, activists, and citizens collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spots into Park(ing) Spaces — temporary public parks.

Anyone can participate in Park(ing) Day!  This project is intended to promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity, and play.

More than 40 people gathered in the basement of Fenton Township Hall on the evening of Tuesday, March 24, 2009 to vision for the future of walking and biking trails in southern Genesee County.  To date, the county trail plan has identified several routes in the region, of which none are currently established or under construction.  CAERs Greenlinks program, supported by the Ruth Mott Foundation was able to facilitate a community meeting that included residents from across the region, members of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint’s Fenton Community Fund, local public officials and county commissioner Patricia Lockwood.  Residents were divided into teams to map out biking and walking trails, and identify cultural and historic places of value to the community.  Participants were elated to be invited to start the development of trails in their community and commented that they enjoy biking and walking but due to lack of facilities and high traffic, are required to travel outside of their community to do so.  With CAERs support, the community’s input will be condensed into a master trails and greenways design for the region and will be included in local parks and recreation plans. The next steps will focus on prioritizing routes and the formation of a friends group to steward the development, fundraising, and education needed to begin “on the ground” work. This program is being done in partnership with the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission and the communities of southern Genesee County: cities of Fenton and Linden, Fenton Township and Argentine Township.

Facilitated by the University Outreach’s GreenLinks program