Our LAND (Learn, Admire, Nurture and Dream)

2016 | Greening of Detroit

The Greening of Detroit’s Our LAND (Learn, Admire, Nurture and Dream) project, serves students in grades 4-8 in Detroit schools. This program combines yearlong classroom activities, on-site field experiences and service learning opportunities taking place in Rouge Park – Detroit’s largest park. Our place-based education approach boosts student achievement and demonstrates to youth how local citizens can improve their community’s environmental quality and social vitality. Our LAND students learn about the water quality of the Rouge River through in-class lessons that address the health of Detroit’s watersheds and behaviors that students can adopt to reduce pollution in the waterways. Students learn how to use water quality monitoring equipment, and design a study for the Rouge River, conduct field tests, and interpret and report their results. They explore the impacts humans have on ecosystems and ways to improve these interactions by helping to plan and implement a service learning project at Rouge Park, which may include tree planting, invasive species removal or a prairie planting. Our LAND provides a wide environmental view for students, while also helping to enhance their grasp of required science curriculum content.

The Our LAND (Learn, Admire, Nurture, Dream) project reached economically-disadvantaged 4th-8th graders in Detroit schools, and combined yearlong classroom activities with on-site field experiences at Detroit’s Rouge Park, River Raisin National Battlefield Park, and Belle Isle State Park. Children participated in meaningful outdoor learning experiences that were linked to their science curriculum, resulting in gains in their awareness and understanding of environmental ecosystems. Through Our LAND, city kids became immersed in the natural world and engaged in full sensory experiences as they participated in seasonal outdoor activities. They got cold and dirty, which was quickly forgotten when they spotted a deer in the woods or heard a hawk’s call for the first time — encounters that will foster their lifelong connection to the outdoors. Students studied the health of the forest, learned about wetland habitats and water quality issues, and examined the impacts humans have on the ecosystem. They also learned their role in preserving environment by participating in invasive species removal and tree plantings activities. Pre- and post-program surveys conducted among participating students showed the majority had improved scores on program content, and demonstrated gains in their knowledge about wildlife habitat, scientific experiment, and watersheds. Similarly, participating students showed increases in their attitudes and perceptions about the natural environment. Comments from students included: “This was a great experience to me because I learned how to clean the water,” and “It was amazing,” and “I like the program because I learned many things I didn’t know.”

In addition to supporting project costs, the TREE Fund grant helped The Greening of Detroit to leverage additional government, corporate and foundational funding for the program, including grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Dresner Foundation, the Michigan Association of Environmental Professionals, and the North Face Explore Fund.