PHONE: (313) 593-5518
DATE: May 2, 2005
UM-Dearborn will provide environmental programs for children and parents in urbanized schools beginning this fall, with support from the McGregor Fund
DEARBORN---Hundreds of schoolchildren from underserved schools and environmentally
challenged neighborhoods in Detroit and western Wayne county will learn
more about the natural world and their own neighborhood environment in
the next three years through a program developed at the University of
Michigan-Dearborn. The parents of the children also will have multiple
opportunities to participate.
UM-Dearborn faculty and staff are working with elementary school teachers
and parents to develop a multi-year program focused on helping students
in Detroit, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Inkster and other communities
discover nature and explore nature's connections to their urbanized lives,
according to Orin Gelderloos, professor of biology and director of the
campus's Environmental Interpretive
At least 20 schools and 25 different classes each year will be included
in the program, which will be launched this fall and continue through
The program has received a $200,000 grant from the McGregor
Fund, a Detroit-based private foundation. "One of our goals has
been to support innovative initiatives to improve educational outcomes
for children in southeastern Michigan, and we can think of few projects
that could have a longer-lasting impact than expanding environmental education
programs for those children who have few opportunities to enjoy the natural
world," according to C. David Campbell, president of the Fund.
This gift is the second major contribution of the McGregor Fund to environmental
education efforts at UM-Dearborn. In 1999, a gift of $98,500 supported
design and construction of an interactive exhibit about the Rouge River
Watershed in the campus's Environmental Interpretive Center.
One of the most important features of the UM-Dearborn program will be
its emphasis on helping children explore the role of nature in their own
"For young people in urban environments, a single visit to a natural
area can have a 'forest fear factor' in it and can be a puzzling or even
frightening experience," Gelderloos said. "That's why we have
developed this program to connect these children with the natural world
right around their own homes, as a way of introducing them to the lessons
that can be taught in the forests, fields, lakes and ponds on our campus."
Another distinctive feature of the program is that it will include multiple
contacts with the children over an extended period, allowing them to monitor
environmental changes through the annual cycle.
"With repeat sessions both at their own schools and on our campus,
the students will develop a new sense of time through understanding the
changes in their environment over the course of the year," Gelderloos
said. Lessons will look at the earth and sun, climate changes, weather
patterns and adaptations of plants and animals to heat and cold and other
conditions, he said.
"In addition, the students will learn to record data accurately,
read scientific instruments with precision, analyze data, present their
findings and draw meaningful conclusions," Gelderloos said.
Over the course of the program, the students will learn to compare their
neighborhood environment with the campus's natural areas. "As a result
of these studies, the students will develop a strong sense of their own
place in the ecological world," according to Gelderloos.
"We also are working to have the children's parents join in some
parts of the program, both in their own neighborhoods and on our campus,"
he said. "That way the children can show their parents what they've
learned, and reinforce their own understanding of nature and their place