New Project Works with Students to make SE Michigan More Resilient to Climate Impacts

Thursday, October 18, 2018

PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Rhett Register, Michigan Sea Grant communications program leader, (734) 647-0767, rregist@umich.edu
Justin Schott, EcoWorks executive director, (313) 459-8987, jschott@ecoworksdetroit.org
 
NEW PROJECT WORKS WITH STUDENTS TO MAKE SE MICHIGAN MORE RESILIENT TO CLIMATE IMPACTS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Literacy Program is funding a unique partnership to help students and teachers in Detroit and Ypsilanti strengthen their communities against the effects of climate change.
 
Heat waves, severe storms, and flooding are becoming more frequent and more intense in the Great Lakes region according to research done by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA), a NOAA-supported team housed jointly at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
 
The cities of Detroit and Ypsilanti in Southeast Michigan score low on most assessments of community climate resilience. To encourage meaningful action, a unique partnership between the cities, Michigan Sea Grant, Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS Coalition), Ecoworks, GLISA, and others has received funding for an innovative project that relies on students to be ambassadors of change in their communities.
 
“Unfortunately, young people are going to feel the effects of climate change more than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations,” says Justin Schott, EcoWorks director. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for them to build both the scientific literacy and the change agent skills to make their homes, schools, and neighborhoods more resilient.”

The project, entitled Climate resilience from the youth up: A place-based strategy uniting high school students, educators, scientists, residents, community organizations, and municipalities in southeast Michigan, was one of nine funded out of more than 230 proposals received by the NOAA Environmental Literacy Program.
 
Over the next three years, the project will bring together students, teachers, city officials, researchers, and community members with the goal of making Detroit and Ypsilanti more resilient to climate stressors.
 
“Michigan Sea Grant is excited to work with this team to help students, teachers, and community members work together to make their Southeast Michigan communities more resilient,” says Catherine Riseng, Michigan Sea Grant director.
 
The project team will work with existing high school environmental clubs called “Green Teams,” which have been supported and facilitated by EcoWorks since 2012. Teachers will receive professional development in climate science and place-based learning methods from the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Initiative at Eastern Michigan University.
 
“So often, institutions and organizations operate from their own silos,” says Ethan Lowenstein, director of the SEMIS Coalition. “This project is an example of what can happen when we build strength-based coalitions with a common vision of empowering our youth to not only prepare to be scientists, community organizers, and policy makers in the future, but to inhabit those roles now.”
 
Working with students and community partners, the team hopes to meet four objectives:
●      Help students identify and study climate vulnerabilities in their schools and communities.
●      Help teachers engage students in planning and completing projects that work toward achieving community resilience.
●      Help students work with residents to teach about local climate impacts and increase understanding of resilience strategies.
●      Work with the cities of Detroit and Ypsilanti to complete and implement local sustainability and climate action plans.

“Educating Detroiters on the risks of climate change and building strong social networks are two vital steps in helping Detroiters be more thriving in the present and resilient to impacts of climate change,” says Joel Howrani Heeres, director of Detroit’s Office of Sustainability. “This grant will help forward both of these activities, while educating and empowering youth to be positive change-makers in their own neighborhoods.”