More than three thousand Western Upper Peninsula (UP) students will have an opportunity to learn outdoors this school year thanks to a $20,000 grant, provided jointly by Mary Nelson and the Wege Foundation, to the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach. The Center’s Outdoor STEM Investigations Field Trip Program is for K-8 students in all 19 school districts in the five counties of the Western UP. Houghton, Baraga, Gogebic, Ontonagon and Keweenaw counties. This past school year, the Program engaged nearly 3000 students in 140 classes from 14 schools in STEM learning outdoors, from physical and earth science, to water quality and forests (numbers were 20% lower due to cancellation of all spring field trips due to Covid-19).
These STEM field trips enhance classroom learning and provide real-world, hands-on experiences for students. All activities are correlated to Michigan Science Standards and connect to the school curriculum. The outdoor classroom allows students to utilize science and math skills, including observing, predicting, data-collection, analysis, and graphing. Each grade has two lesson offerings for each season—Fall, Winter, Spring.
During the Fall field trip season, students investigate the physics of flight, assessing stream health, and designing the best seed get-aways.
During the Winter field trip season, students are provided with snowshoes to incorporate physical exercise into their learning. Students investigate topics such as the “wind chill” effect, which materials make better insulators, and wildlife adaptations to stay warm in winter.
During the Spring field trip season, students explore the benefits and functions of wetlands, soil science, lichens as bioindicators of air quality, and much more.
One teacher observed, “My students absolutely loved the program. Their favorite part was looking for decomposers, which made the food web real.
The Center’s mission is to enhance the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and promote environmental literacy and stewardship amongst K-12 students and teachers. For more information about the grant received from Mary Nelson and the Wege Foundation, or the Outdoor STEM Investigations Field Trip program, contact Joan Chadde at 906-487-3341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.