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Happy New Year!  
What better way to start than with a new logo and a new website!
At the SEMIS PD on January 30th, we'll be preparing educators to use this website through the Shared Stories page and Common Room Blog!
Please remember to register for the Janaury 30th PD here, and don't forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter to get all the updates on Coalition happenings!

Exploring Place Across the State

The GLSI Place-Based Education Conference Highlights

Teachers and partners joined together for another great statewide conference this November.  The theme of presentations ranged from civic engagement and community partnerships, to student voice and STEAM connections.  Reflecting on the experience, we sent out a survey to gauge the impact of the conference.  Some highlights of that survey included the following:

What was most powerful about your experience at the conference?
  • Student presentations, networking across the state, seeing the the impacts of other leaders, experiencing the committment and passion from other educators.

What skills or materials did you gain from attending the conference?
  • Notre Dame's Photovoice - a participatory youth engagement and empowerment program,
  • New ideas for including student voice,
  • Presenters gained public speaking skills and confidence in speaking in front of crowds,
  • Information on using PBS learning media for curriculum enhancement,
  • One presenter learned how to be a better coach and educator in prepping students to lead a workshop

What new ideas would you like the SEMIS Coalition to develop in our PD's?
  • Online content like videos or webinars of experts and practitioners with applicable examples,
  • Model language to speak about PBE to potential administrators, teachers, parents, etc.,
  • On-site Earth Force professional development training (at schools),
  • Indigenizing Public School Curriculum  (i.e. PD, mentoring, coaching from Indigenous experts and actual members of the Indigenous communities in Southeast Michigan),
  • Learning Media and Technology - how to utilize these resources and integrate for enhancement of public school curriculum,
  • Qualitative and long term impacts evaluation,
  • Understanding the skills and pathways to becoming a Powerful Place Based Educator (i.e create a 3-year continuum for growing new PPBEs. what skills and competencies you should be gaining, etc.)
For Presenters:  What was the impact for you, your students and the audience?
  • "It was great to see the response from the audience and they had really great questions about our work, both challenging us and making us feel like our work was really valuable."
  • "Presenting is a great experience. It allows you to empower others...they see it (PBE) can be done in the classroom! It impacted me, as it makes me reflect on my practice, there is always room for improvement!"
  • "I think it forces me to reevaluate my work and reflect on what I am doing and how I can make it better. It also forces me to engage in conversation with people about PBL/PBE which helps drive my instruction and community engagement."
  • "It was a reminder of how much knowledge and reflection students hold and how rarely we fully draw that out. As always, the direct project impacts (e.g. how many homes weatherized, energy saved) were less powerful than the ways that participating changed the students. I never expected to hear that students are more extroverted, more compassionate people (or that they would communicate that clearly), and I don't think the audience did."
    either. The trainings we did around conflict resolution and leadership, while less than 5% of our program time, turned out to have major impacts on our students."

Images:  Photos by Ethan Lowenstein

Project Profile:  Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody

Teacher:  Chad Segrist, Lead Teacher/STEAM Coordinator  

Community issue or need addressed:

Developing a community gardening and green space resource for the Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody High School (DIT Cody); developing STEAM-based solutions to pressing DPS sustainability needs, like energy, insulation and recycling

Place-Based Activity Description:

DIT Cody is a long-term SEMIS school, participating since 2010. Their work began with a community mapping project with Ramona Gligor that evolved into a summer energy efficiency program with EcoWorks, which operates the Detroit Youth Energy Squad (D-YES). This project included home energy consultations and energy efficient installations, and EcoWorks became a strong community partner, with students winterizing over a 1,000 homes in Detroit. From this foundation, in 2013-2014, EcoWorks continued to work with DIT Cody and a new teacher Chad Segrist through a student led-initiative called the “Green Team.” Detroit Public Schools started a Green Team Challenge initiative to improve sustainable infrastructure among participating schools, while reducing costs for energy, water, etc. This year, the DIT Green Team projects included two garden sites, including an outdoor classroom, working with DPS and AmeriCorps coordinators with Detroit Youth Energy Squad. 

The Green Team challenge resulted in the DIT Youth Ambassadors Program as a mechanism for leadership development and youth participation. The Cody Youth Ambassadors (CYA) are the community’s voice for deepening the educational integration and development process through
advocacy and peer education initiatives. Membership in CYA currently stands at 38 students who were selected by students, teachers and administrators. Membership is extended to local feeder schools and an outreach plan is evolving. This allows children of all ages to be involved and work with their peers in the garden project.  

Project implementation included a spring clean-up day, preparation of garden areas, preparing a site plan, reaching out to the community to get input on the garden project and volunteer recruitment to maintain the garden site. Youth ambassadors supported local youth involvement in this process. Students took their learning out into the greater community, supporting a tree-planting project at Belle Isle with the DNR Urban Forestry Program.

To secure a sustainable future for the Gardens, the CYA has a regular community open house that is growing in numbers. This allows the discussion to continue with all of the stakeholders– D-YES, Greening of Detroit, Whole Foods, and Lowes.  The April Spring Thing Open House showcased the gardens, greenhouse, outdoor classroom, and reforestation projects. 

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) disciplines are another major focus of the sustainability projects at DIT Cody. Students participate in projects such as “Capture the Wind,” where they are challenged to develop a device that transforms wind energy into electrical energy, and a project titled “Cabin Insulation,” where students design, construct and evaluate an insulating panel from recycled materials.

SEMIS Connections:
  • Earth Force curriculum to guide civic engagement process in the garden project.
  • EcoWorks partnership, staff support and expertise in designing and developing the gardens.

Resources used from outside sources:
  • DPS funding and support for the Green Team projects
  • Lowe’s donated materials and volunteers
  • Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program

Community Partners:
  • Detroit Public Schools support the Go Green Challenge, and develop press releases and newsletters about their school’s sustainability progress
  • EcoWorks employs Americorps members to support school-based sustainability projects, such as landscape architecture students working with the school garden project.
  • The Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program: Urban Forest Stewardship Project involves two field trips to Belle Isle to implement a forestry stewardship project as well as planning and creating a schoolyard habitat involving trees.
  • Lowes provided construction materials and volunteers for the school garden implementation day.
  • Whole Foods and Greening of Detroit  also contributed support for these projects.

Other teachers/school staff involved:

Chad Segrist spearheaded the ‘green team’ including 4-5 teachers with differing roles and levels of input and time. Ramona Gligor was a key organizer of the work at DIT Cody with SEMIS, but is no longer working with the school. With SEMIS for many years, she transformed her practice to be very student centered and pioneered students presentations at the GLSI Place-Based Education Conference, with her work featured in the Spencer Grant and the GLSI documentary (

 Outcomes for Student Learning:

May 17 was “Re-creation Day” and DIT Cody, with 4 to 5 community partners that used mentorship programming to come in and work with students on kicking off their garden project. Partners and the Green Team met on weekly basis, and students developed Re-creation Day, developing service activities, such as building handicapped raised beds. Volunteers installed an outdoor classroom for events that can take place outside, like outdoor theatre performances. The gardens included spiral and haystack gardens, 15 trees were planted in connection with the forestry service, discarded tires were recycled, painted and used as a border and planters. Some rain barrels and water conservation efforts are taking place on site as well.

Outcomes for Educator Learning:

DIT Cody has been engaged in two tracks of SEMIS training. They began partnering with SEMIS through Great Lakes monitoring training starting at the 2013 Summer Institute, and continued throughout 2014 with the support of Earth Force curriculum and training in conjunction with SEMIS staff coaching. The result was a long-term partnership with Detroit Youth Energy Squad (D-YES), the DIT Cody Green Team and the community and school gardens. Their far reaching goals are within the Rouge watershed, using NOAA educational resources around water quality surveys, identifying regional solutions to water and energy concerns beyond their school ground.

Powerful Place-Based Educator Characteristics:
  • Finding and inviting experts and community members into your classroom 
  • Using an inquiry approach
  • Creating lessons and projects that provide for student voice and student driven inqiury  
  • Helping students to identify and choose the community issues they want to address 
  • Visioning the future to discuss and debate, “What should our community be?”
  • Understanding and teaching science concepts  
  • Visioning the future to discuss and debate, “What should our community be?”
  • Putting students in the position of “teacher” (e.g., during Community Forum, PBE conference, Summer Institute, presentations to their community)
 Methods for data collection:
  • Surveying school site and taking measurements for garden design
  • Community interviews of about the garden space
  • Community mapping in relation the school’s place within the Rouge River watershed. Future data collection: water quality surveys, trips to the river, identifying areas of concern and what DIT-CODY can do to help alleviate those concerns. 
  • The outdoor classroom project involves engineering and design competencies in greenhouse and school garden construction
  • Biology concepts are taught through seed propagation and tracking
  • The “Capture the Wind” project involves studying and developing technology with basic tools
  • The “Cabin Insulation” project involves studying thermal resistance and energy conservation; heat transfer and properties of materials; and mathematics, with equation manipulation, graphing, linear and non-linear relationships.
Assessment measures
  • Powerpoint presentations and informational brochures

Interdisciplinary tie-ins
  • Social studies and English competencies include interviewing techniques, brochure writing, powerpoint presentation and community organizing skills
  • The Foreign Language Immersion & Cultural Studies (FLICS) class supported the Dumpster Decoration Project for the DPS Go Green Challenge with a design of a rising phoenix encircled in recycling arrows along with the various foreign languages that the team speaks.


“The process gets to the project – the gardens. Last year the process started. We met initially on a monthly basis, using inquiry-based questions to lead our discussion. What effect will it have? Who will be affected both positively and negatively? What would this mean to members of the community? Things like that. The inquiry led to new questions from students. We would have sit-downs where students would develop new questions, and with collaboration of other stakeholders we developed inquiry based “driving” questions that led our next steps. We started to see propagations for these “seedlings” that are now in the ground that led to questions that many students had that were quite interesting.“

Copyright © 2015 Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), All rights reserved.

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