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.

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