BY MICHAEL WALTON
TRAVERSE CITY — Twelve $1,500 grants awarded to local schools seek to make students the next stewards of Michigan's water.
The grants awarded by the Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative will fund year-long projects on topics ranging from invasive species' effects on water quality to the life-cycle of an average plastic water bottle.
Stewardship Initiative Program Coordinator Jenifer Strauss reviewed 14 project proposals and awarded 12 grants to schools in Grand Traverse, Benzie and Antrim counties. Each of the projects Strauss selected focus on hands-on learning opportunities..
"These kids are getting community-based, real-life experience about environmental issues," she said.
Eighth grade science classes at Traverse City East Middle School will use their grant to fund a variety of projects, including building generators to learn about how renewable energy benefits watersheds, said earth science teacher Mary Brisbois.
Benzie Central High School students are preparing a Water Fair in collaboration with the Benzie County Water Festival.
Josh Stoltz is a site coordinator for the non-profit group SEEDS, which offers educational, after-school programming for students. He said students will prepare presentations on water-related topics of their choice, such as the chemistry of local watersheds, the construction of rain gardens, and even how to properly fillet and cook a fish.
Stoltz said he hopes the fair will make students more proactive about conserving the region's water quality.
"(Students) are surrounded by these resources that most adults take for granted," he said. "No one pays attention until there is some sort of problem."
The Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative is one of eight Great Lakes stewardship programs funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. The Grand Traverse Conservation District also provides funding for the Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative.