Partnership gets $300,000 grant to fund outdoor environmental classes

Ken-O-Sha Elementary students planted a prairie with Blandford Nature Center in 2016

Every student at Grand Rapids Public Schools – from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade – will be exposed to outdoor educational experiences thanks to the Grand Rapids Environmental Education Network (GREEN), a partnership of area environmental groups and educators.

The partnership announced a $300,000 grant from the Wege Foundation to support its goals on Friday, Dec. 14.

“Collectively, GREEN envisions a future where young people throughout West Michigan are active environmental stewards and engaged in our community,” according to the announcement.

A Wege Foundation grant will fund more environmental projects in the city

“We are committed to students getting real-world experience directly tied to their classroom learning,” said Clayton Pelon of the Grand Valley State University College of Education and lead on the grant.

Groundswell, an initiative housed at the college, has supported environmental learning across West Michigan for 10 years, he said. “We are excited to create an approach that will support schools in fully embracing outdoor education.”

“We are honored to be the recipients of this grant to create unique programming for all of our students,” added Grand Rapids Public School Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal. “GREEN is a one-of-a-kind partnership between so many impactful organizations in Grand Rapids. Focusing their efforts on GRPS will reaffirm our commitment to being a sustainable district, ensuring every student has access to the same, and more, opportunities.”

Partners in GREEN include the school district’s Blandford Nature Center, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Groundswell – Grand Valley State University College of Education, John Ball Zoo, Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds (LGROW), Outdoor Discovery Center, Our Community’s Children, and West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC).

“We believe that engaged youth can make a difference in our watershed and that hands-on educational experiences play a crucial role in fostering an environmental stewardship ethic,” said Eileen Boekestein, education program coordinator for LGROW. “We are proud to partner with GREEN to deliver high quality environmental education and equitable access to nature for all youth in our community.”

GREEN will develop a pilot program for comprehensive PreK-12 environmental education with the grant, according to the announcement.

James Harger
James Harger reported on West Michigan's economy, courts and politics for The Grand Rapids Press and Mlive.com for more than 37 years. He also is employed as Servanthood Leader at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown Grand Rapids. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he also has worked for publications in Holland, Mount Pleasant and Lansing. He is married to Lisa and has one daughter, who lives in Ann Arbor. Read James' full bio.

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