Hudsonville High School and King Elementary Unite to Learn about the Environment


This fall, a class of eighteen fifth-graders from Muskegon Heights, MI, teamed with a group of fifteen high school students from Hudsonville, MI, in a collaborative effort to collect water and air quality data. The link between these two schools was an interest in the environment through GLOBE - a global network of teachers, students and scientists dedicated to gathering and understanding accurate environmental data.

On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, students from Ms. Gill's class from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School traveled 40 miles to join students from Mrs. Webster's class from Hudsonville High School for a day of environmental study. Together they collected baseline biological, chemical, and physical stream data for Rush Creek and Buttermilk Creek using GLOBE protocols. Surface ozone data was also collected. This data will then be compared to other West Michigan water sources such as the Grand River, Rogue River, and Little Black Creek in Muskegon Heights. The information will also be used to track seasonal changes in stream conditions.

This partnership began before the school year started when teachers from both schools participated in a GLOBE teacher training workshop co-sponsored by Grand Valley State University (Annis Water Resources Institute and Regional Math/ Science Center) and the Michigan Environmental Council. "At the GLOBE workshop," remembers Ms. Paulla Melin VanOeveren, Science Coordinator for King Elementary, "Christine Webster approached me with an ingenious idea of beginning a partnership between her school and mine." The idea appealed to both educators as a way to have their students have an opportunity to practice hands-on science in a real world setting, and well as interface with and learn about students who were from a different background.

"Even though we are 40 miles apart, these two communities may as well be on the other side of the world," states Mrs. Webster. These students come from two communities that are very different geographically, culturally, and from a socio-economic perspective. King Elementary is located in an urban, economically challenged community; Hudsonville High School is in a rapidly growing rural/suburban setting. Yet, all involved were amazed at how wonderfully the students worked together with the common focus of understanding the environment. Both schools are actively working with their students to implement GLOBE and integrate the program into their curriculum. In Muskegon Heights, Ms. Melin-VanOveren is leading the students and teachers in the ongoing study of Little Black Creek (Peerless Plating), an EPA SUPERFUND site. In November, Dave Wierzbicki, State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) Sr. Environmental Analyst, came to King School to make a presentation on the SUPERFUND sites in West Michigan and went with 5th graders to Little Black Creek to gather data. Next May, Dave will join these same 5th graders, along with Dr. Rick Rediske and Dr. Janet Vail (GVSU), who have been studying the creek intensely with the Mona Lake Watershed Council, to continue their data collection and begin making clean up plans. King Elementary students in other grade levels have also been collecting data at their school site on surface ozone and cloud cover.

In Hudsonville, Mrs. Webster has been developing a new course in Environmental Studies for junior and senior level students. Her students have been working this fall to gather baseline data for ongoing study on land usage and water quality in their community. Hudsonville is a traditional farming area which is under rapid housing development. Outside experts from the DEQ have been involved at Hudsonville as well. Data collected at both sites is entered regularly on-line through the GLOBE website. Both teachers were trained in GLOBE at an annual, week-long training workshop at the Lake Michigan Center of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Muskegon, Michigan. This workshop - led by GLOBE Training Coordinator, Dr. Janet Vail (GVSU) and GLOBE Trainers, Karen Meyers (GVSU) and Keith Etheridge (MEC) - equips teachers to utilize the GLOBE program with students with an emphasis on inquiry-based science instruction and integration of environment education into their existing school curricula. The results from this first encounter between these two schools have been so positive that the teachers plan on continuing this partnership in May, this time with the Hudsonville students making the trip to Muskegon Heights. Ms. Gill, 5th grade classroom teacher, points out that the trip had many benefits. "Through GLOBE and this project, students gain a respect for the environment and a respect for each other. After the trip, invitations to keep in contact were extended both ways between the two groups." Through GLOBE, resident experts, and classroom instruction, these schools are teaching their children to care about their community and empowering them to do something about the quality of the environment around them.

Contacts: * Karen Meyers, Assistant Director; Regional Math & Science Center @ Grand Valley State University, meyersk@gvsu.edu; 616.331.2515 * Christine Webster, Teacher; Hudsonville High School; cwebster@hudsonville.k12.mi.us; 616.669.1510 (W) or 616.748.9628 (H) * Paulla Melin-VanOeveren, Science Coordinator; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School,MELVANPA@mhpsnet.org;231.830.3459 (W) or 231.733.2574 (H). * Dr. Janet Vail, Associate Professor of Water Resources, GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute, vailj@gvsu.edu;616.331.3048 * Keith Etheridge, Education Specialist, Michigan Environmental Council,keith.etheridge@comcast.net

NOTE: Both schools are also involved in a surface-temperature project with NASA scientist Dr. Kevin Czajkowski from the University of Toledo. This connection of Dr. Kevin with the GVSU GLOBE Franchise is probably another story in itself.

31 January 2005




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