ALPENA - Students from all around Northeast Michigan gathered at Alpena Community College on Tuesday to participate in the first ever Northeast Michigan Youth Watershed Summit. Nearly 200 students from 11 schools in seven different counties presented their specific watershed-related projects to students from the other schools.
There were 16 presentations on various topics such as collection of water quality data, Great Lakes maritime culture and history, Adopt-a-Beach projects, aquatic and land invasive species, and river erosion. Each presentation was made by the students involved in the project. They answered questions from their peers and adults interested in their work in and out of the classroom.
"The work the students are doing helps the adults understand what's going on in the local watershed," Sarah Adcock, Huron Pines Americorps member said. "Students study the water quality and invasive species, and we use their collected data to see the effects different land activities have on the water quality and the watersheds, which will eventually affect Lake Huron. Their projects give us some insight as to what we need to focus on in the future."
News Photo by Nicole Grulke
Sanborn students present details and answer questions about their Thunder Bay River Watershed Project to other students at the first Northeast Michigan Youth Watershed Summit on Tuesday.
Students from Alpena, Alcona, Atlanta, Au Gres, Inland Lakes, Ossineke, Oscoda, and Rogers City presented at the summit in three different rooms available for them to describe their projects.
"It was very interesting," Darbi Dolliven, a fifth-grader at Bingham Arts Academy, said. "I learned a lot of things I didn't know before, like how water picks up tiny particles but not big ones."
Students from Rogers City Junior High talked to their peers about testing the turbidity in Trout River and studying the macroinvertebrates in the river.
"I learned there are a lot of different types of studies you can do to see what's in the water," seventh-grader Phil Grambau said.
Grambau's fellow presenters explained how they test different parts of Trout River and compare the results to determine how clean the water is, which they said is very clean, based on their results.
"It's interesting to see what the other schools are doing for projects," Hanna Fleming said. "I learned about the rusty crayfish, and we don't find many of them where we are, which is good."
The summit was funded by an Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant secured by the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Great Lakes region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's B-WET program specifically to put toward a youth watershed summit.
"The students are all across different grades," Sarah Waters, sanctuary education coordinator, said. "The younger ones are starting with little stuff, and the older ones have progressed, but the great thing is the questions the students ask each other. Instead of having adults talk at them, it's much more engaging for the kids to present, and maybe they feel more comfortable asking the kids questions rather than the adults."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Heather Rawlings said the long-term goal of the summit and the projects is to expose children repeatedly to hands-on environmental activities, hopefully fostering them to continue to care about the environment and become stewards as members of the public.
"All of our programs facilitate each other," Rawlings said. "It's real world experience for these kids and will be great experiences for their future education or job. It's about getting the right teachers to make the light bulbs turn on for kids, and we have some great teachers on board who have been working really hard to do just that."
The students presenting have been working in some capacity in watershed-related projects for the past year, collecting data through hands-on learning inside the classroom and out.
"I think the students enjoyed the opportunity to share what they have been working on with the other students," Adcock said. "We hope to have it again next year."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.