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

By Eric Freedman

The Knight Center is awarding $2,000 grants to three 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:

  • Everett High School in Lansing for a project designed around water quality and accessibility. Science students will research how water is accessed around the world, how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency governs what is considered drinkable water, how freshwater availability is becoming scarce and how people may have to rely on other water sources for the future, such as wastewater. Journalism students will cover the progress of that research and accompany environmental science students on field trips. Coverage will include news briefs, video content and an in-depth chronological coverage of the research.

The teachers are Chad Sanders and Klaudia Burton. The professional mentor is Lauren Gibbons, a Lansing-based reporter for MLive’s Public Interest Team covering federal politics and policy. She previously covered the state Senate for MIRS News

  • Grandville High School in Grandville for a project on local environmental problems and possible solutions. Science students will design and test research hypotheses. Teams of journalism students will conduct interviews and observations to follow the tests and to disseminate the results through multi-modal and interactive story packages, using such media tools as Storify, Google Suite, WordPress, social media, photojournalism and videography.

The teachers are Kelsey Feldspausch and Christopher Groenhout. The professional mentor is Howard Meyerson, the managing editor for Michigan BLUE Magazine and a freelance writer and photographer. His works have appeared in a variety of publications including Lakeland Boating Magazine, CanoeRoots Magazine and MLive Media Group newspapers.

  • Lee M. Thurston High School in Redford for a project that will replace invasive phragmites with native plants in a stormwater detention area next to the school. The replacement plant species will provide a stable food source for pollinators and attract songbirds and small mammals. Broadcast students will develop news stories about removal of the phragmites, rain garden development and guided field trip opportunities that the environmental science students will offer to teachers in the school district.
  • The teachers are Kara Clayton and Holly Hereau. The professional mentor is Ilene Wolff, a Detroit-area freelance writer, editor and writing coach who often covers health, the environment, technology and business. She formerly was with the Oakland Press and Beaumont Hospitals.

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 and Onaway High School.
The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and Michigan Science Teachers Association helped publicize the grant competition.

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