4-H youth protect Michigan’s rivers as they learn in

Students across the Flint River Watershed are going out and testing the Flint River, making a difference in their community.

Students in the Flint River Watershed have been learning about the quality of their waters and how to protect them for more than a decade. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the Flint River Watershed Coalition work with their partners, General Motors,Earthforce, the Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Office, the City of Flint Wastewater Treatment Plant and local schools in Flint River Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN). GREEN is an international program. We have had more than 3,600 students and 60 teachers involved in the program.

MSU Extension provides education for teachers and mentors in this program. We work with our partners to show how to conduct water quality testing for eight parameters: temperature, dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, pH, phosphates, nitrates, total dissolved solids and fecal coliform bacteria levels.

Classrooms are teamed up with an environmental professional in the area from General Motors or one of our other community partners. The purpose of these classroom mentors is to work through the testing with the students, help analyze the data, and provide a role model for careers in science and engineering.

After students conduct the testing, the present their results at a student summit. This year the summit was held at Kettering University. Community leaders as well as other students sit in on the presentations. Students also get to attend breakout sessions from a wide range of professionals including the Department of Natural Resources, Genesee County Parks, Chatfield Schools, EPA, local beekeepers and many others.

At the student summit, we evaluate the students, focusing on five questions. We found that after participation in the student summit, students agreed with more the following statements than prior to it:   

  • The Flint River is clean and healthy.
  • I can make a difference in the health of the Flint River.
  • I understand how a river may become polluted.
  • I want to do things to help the environment.
  • I know about jobs in the environmental field.

If you want to learn more about this program, contact Darren Bagley.

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