High school journalism, science teachers and students visit Knight Center

By Eric Freedman

Jeremy Steele giving building tour to students

The Knight Center hosted journalism and science students and teachers from three Michigan high schools that had won collaboration grants from a center initiative.

The groups from Everett High School in Lansing, Grandville High School in Grandville and Thurston High School in Redford presented their collaborative projects, which will be posted on the Knight Center website when they’re complete.

Speaker Brian Bienkowski

They also met with Knight Center faculty and Journalism School Director Lucinda Davenport and heard Knight Center master’s alum Brian Bienkowski, an editor at Environmental Health News, talk about his experience in reporting about environmental issues.

In addition, the groups toured the J-School’s state-of-the-art multimedia newsroom with Jeremy Steele, director of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, and toured MSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

Students giving presentations

The Knight Center created the annual grant program and invited journalism and science teachers to propose innovative class projects in which journalism students report about field research conducted by themselves or separately by environmental science students.


Student environmental reporting wins SPJ prize

Andrew Blok and Kurt Williams

Two master’s students at Michigan State University, Kurt Williams and Andrew Blok, won first place in the Online Reporting category at the recent Region 4 meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists in Cleveland.

Williams and Blok received a Mark of Excellence award for their reporting titled “Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes: Investigating efforts to protect and preserve water quality.” The award recognizes the finest in collegiate journalism in Region 4, which encompasses Michigan, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Their project now moves on to the national Society of Professional Journalists competition.

Parts of the package were published by Great Lakes Echo and Capital News Service. The full package can be found at https://medium.com/harmful-algal-blooms-and-how-to-stop-them.

Williams and Blok worked on the project in their Multimedia Reporting class taught by Professor Serena Miller. Their reporting investigated the complexity of the problem of algal blooms, using recent bloom events in Lake Erie to understand the potential for expansion of blooms into the upper Great Lakes, the impacts of blooms on communities in the region and efforts to prevent them.

They interviewed scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research laboratory in Ann Arbor, Bowling Green State University in Ohio and MSU for the story. The scientists’ expertise provided information necessary to understand the problem, how the problem is being monitored in the Great Lakes Basin and possible future solutions to curtail algal blooms.

Soil scientists, farmers and volunteer water quality monitors provided insight into ongoing efforts to stop the flow of nutrients that fuel the blooms.

To capture the impact of algal blooms on residents in the Great Lakes Basin, particularly those who rely on the lakes for their water, the water treatment plant manager in Monroe, Michigan, was interviewed about the city’s efforts to preserve its water quality and how his and other communities can benefit from scientific research.

Four high schools win journalism-environmental science grants from the Knight Center

By Eric Freedman

The Knight Center is awarding $2,000 grants to four Michigan high schools for collaboration between their journalism and environmental science classes.

The winning projects were selected in the center’s third statewide competition.

The Knight Center also matches the schools with professional journalism mentors to work with the students and teachers for guidance and advice on the projects.

The grants go to:

  • A.D. Johnston High School in Bessemer for a collaborative project with science and language arts classes for students to take photos, write and submit articles and produce short videos about student research and findings at governmental agencies and media outlets. Students will do research, and by working in collaboration with journalism classes they will take ownership of the outreach, express student perspectives and have the opportunity to develop their skills in disseminating information to various audiences.

The teachers are Micaela Zelinski and David Rowe. The professional mentor is John Pepin, a public information officer with the Department of Natural Resources based in Marquette and formerly with the Marquette Mining Journal.

  • Greenhills School in Ann Arbor for a project designed around a Sustainability Action Project. Students will have an opportunity to understand tissues surrounding sustainability on a local, national or global problem and will develop an “action project” that addresses the problem. The goal is to create a collaboration between science and journalism for dissemination of knowledge, increase student empathy and promote student agency in addressing their chosen problem. Students will do research, collect data and report and make a public presentation about their work.

The teachers are Charles Dershimer and Andy Wicklund. The professional mentor is Darcie Moran, a reporter for MLive based in Ann Arbor.

  • Troy High School in Troy for a project that will include studying the ecosystem health of the local watershed. There will be field visits where scientific data will be collected on multiple indicators of water quality. Students will analyze their data and compare it to published standards on water quality monitoring. Students on the staff of the newspaper will cover each stage of the testing project. They will take photos and get video footage. The output may include a podcast and other formats for visual storytelling. The work will be presented to faculty and students.

The teachers are Jayna Rumble and Rob Zynda. The professional mentor is Nancy Hanus, formerly of Crain’s Detroit Business and the Detroit News.

  • Jackson Preparatory and Early College in Jackson for a project that will be done in collaboration with the Dahlem Center, a local nonprofit nature center. The project will provide science and journalism students a hands-on experience about how the earth decomposes and renews itself through field trips. During those trips, journalism students will observe early college students to record and note the progress the science students make while seeking samples of soil, rock, skeletal remains, etc. The coverage will include a video documentary, weekly updates on the school channel, posters and potential MLive publications.

The teachers are Scarlet Sager, Clinton Bartholomew and Kasia Ciolek. The professional mentor is Brian Wheeler, the senior communications director at Consumers Energy, formerly of the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

The Knight Center created the grant program and invited journalism and science teachers to propose innovative class projects in which journalism students report about field research conducted by themselves or separately by environmental science students. The program’s principal goals are to:

  • help young prospective journalists better understand and explain to the public how science is done
  • help environmental science students learn to use the media to explain their work to the public.
  • promote STEM learning, environmental awareness and communication skills among high school students.

Past grant recipients are Charlevoix Middle/High School; Troy Athens High School; Divine Child High School in Dearborn; Grosse Pointe North High School; Onaway High School; Everett High School in Lansing; Lee M Thurston High School in Redford; and Grandville High School.
The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and Michigan Science Teachers Association helped publicize the grant competition.

Knight Center awards fifth round of documentary grants

The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism has awarded two $3,500 documentary grants to MSU faculty-student teams.

The winning projects were chosen from proposals submitted in a campus-wide competition:

  • “The Ground Beneath our Feet” — The film will document how a community of ordinary people, acting extraordinarily, can show that others can take a stand for their communities against big industry polluters. Faculty: Geri Zeldes, School of Journalism and John Valadez, Department of Media & Information. Students: Evan Kutz and Taylor O’Neil, Journalism; and Jon Famurewa and Jason Howard, Media & Information.
  • “We Are Flint” — The film will look at the narratives of Flint residents/families talking about the city, the environment they live in and their lives there. Faculty: Judy Walgren, School of Journalism. Students: Courtney Pasek, Sylvia Jarrus and Nic Antaya, Journalism.

In addition to public dissemination of the projects, the Knight Center will use the documentaries on its website and for presentation in classes, workshops and other center activities.
This is the fourth year of the center’s grant competition.