Place-based education building tomorrow’s communities

Youth across northeast Michigan are impacting and changing their communities through Great Lakes place-based stewardship projects.

Great things are happening in northeast Michigan! The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world’s available surface fresh water, and in northeast Michigan, 20 percent of the youth are involved in Great Lakes place-based stewardship projects. Youth across northeast Michigan are having a real impact and changing their communities through stewardship projects. Not only are these youth changing their community landscape, they are changing their communities’ attitude and their own.

When the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative began over 10 years ago, many youth felt disconnected from their communities. They were often viewed as the young whipper-snapper driving too fast and destroying property, while youth viewed the older generation as the old fogies who drove too slow and were stuck in the stone ages. Youth were biding their time until graduation and couldn’t wait to shake the dust of their community from their feet. Neither group recognized the value the other could bring to their community. Now we have communities who recognize and value the vitality and energy of the youth and we have youth who value the stored knowledge and wisdom of the older generation. Across northeast Michigan, both generations have a shared vision for changing their community. Many youth now know of numerous local career opportunities and are making plans to come back after college or technical school.

The placed-based education stewardship work of the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, including Michigan State University Extension, was acknowledged by an invitation to visit with Senator Gary Peters, and other organizations, to discuss opportunities to put STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) place-based education front and center. May 2, 2016, was an opportunity, as described by Barb Frantz of the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, to “explore how we could all benefit from working more closely together to advance a shared agenda for today’s youth and tomorrow’s workforce and the families in the region.”

Northeast Michigan is served well by the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, one of nine hubs functioning as a network and resource center for place-based education and Great Lakes stewardship. To learn more about place-based education, read “Exploring place-based education from the student perspective” or “Place-based education enhancing STEM education” by MSU Extension.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore MSU Extension’s Science and Technology website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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