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Metroparks Supplemental Science Programs Serves 798 Students in Southeast Michigan

As the school year comes to a close, so does the second year of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Supplemental Science program, an in-school initiative that has provided more than 798 students in southeast Michigan with hands-on S.T.E.M education, as a part of the Metroparks & Me initiative. Every child deserves an opportunity to experience the wonder of the outdoors and learn about nature, but for far too many children, that opportunity is out of reach simply because their schools need help to afford it. Metroparks has received over $40,000 from the Russell Family Foundation through the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which will support the growth of the Supplemental Science program by training and equipping educators with the tools they need to offer students experiential learning opportunities.

“The efforts made within our Supplemental Science program have not only helped students better understand science but have also forged memories and relationships that inspire and excite them about their futures,” said Huron-Clinton Metroparks Director Amy McMillan. “This grant from the Russell Family Foundation complements those efforts. Our goal is to raise $1.8 million for the Supplemental Science program to ensure we can expand our reach and impact even more students. By investing in these programs, we are enhancing education, fostering a love for science, and making a significant, positive impact on the lives of young people in our community.”

The Supplemental Science Program gives school-aged children in Southeast Michigan the opportunity to explore the state’s natural resources and S.T.E.M career opportunities through science education. Under the program, Metroparks staff work with teachers to create customized, hands-on learning programs that align with the existing curriculum. This includes visits to classrooms a few times a week for the entire school year to build a love of science and create lasting relationships with students.

In the two years since the program’s launch, Metroparks staff has spent nearly 357 hours across 126 school visits, engaging with hundreds of students and their teachers. Data from evaluations from students and teachers at the end of the 2022-23 engagement found that nearly 90% of all eighth graders who participated in the program reported an increase in positive outlook for science, demonstrating the success of the program and excitement from students.

The grant from the Russell Family Foundation will support a series of teacher workshops to provide educators in kindergarten through eighth grade from underserved schools in Wayne County with the tools, practice, and capability to integrate experiential learning into their existing science curriculum. It will create a lending library of Investigation Boxes that reflect workshop explorations with materials and lessons. The Bird Kit is one of the Investigation Boxes available to teachers who attend the workshops. Teachers will also be provided with information on nearby field trip locations, highlighting places where ecosystems, rivers, glacial landforms, bird migrations and more can be experienced first-hand.

“The Bird kit was awesome, and my students had a great time engaging and learning,” said Stan Wheeler, a third-grade teacher at John R. King Academy. “Bird Olympics was a great way for students to understand the different skills birds have and how they have to adapt to everything within their environment. They cannot wait to explore the other units while having fun and learning at the same time!”

“Experiential learning is a wonderful way to bring classroom lessons to life and help young people connect with the natural world,” Russell Family Foundation Chair John G. Russell says. “Expanding access to these types of S.T.E.M. lessons also can ignite more students’ curiosity and, hopefully, inspire future scientists.”

The Supplemental Science program is part of the Metroparks & Me initiative, a multi-year, multi-million-dollar program geared toward breaking the barriers that limit access to health, wellness, education and quality-of-life opportunities. To expand its impact across Southeast Michigan and reach thousands more families, Metroparks, through the Metroparks Foundation, is looking to raise $2.4 million over three years: $1.8 million for the Supplemental Science program and $600,00 for the Everyone in the Pool program.

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