This week we traveled to Eastern Michigan University to present at the SEMIS Coalition Community Forum, an annual celebration where students share their place-based education experiences with attendees across generations.
Our first session focused on our collaboration with We Are The Forest, a local non-profit that focuses on biomimicry and reforestation education. This work included using iTree software to calculate the monetary value of the ecosystem services that trees on our campus provide. Learning to collect and share this data enables students to make the case for the protection and expansion of forests from an economic standpoint. They also shared information about the ecosystems services trees provide and the functions of the various trees in the native tree library they planted on campus.
Our second session focused on the work students have done around the Flint Water Crisis and Dioxane Plume in Ann Arbor, two issues impacting local community members.
When investigating the Flint Water Crisis, students researched the history of the issue using the power of why to deepen their questions, beginning with lead in the water and ending with questions about the effects of automation and globalization on manufacturing communities. The students also collaborated with the Kindergarten class to hold a water drive for a school in Flint. When visiting the school, our class also interviewed the students there, wanting to know their stories from their perspective. Finally, we began discussing possible solutions including decentralized water systems as discussed by Matt Grocoff and U of M’s BlueLAB as well as Nate Ayers and Jesse Tack of Flint Water Solutions. The possibility of mycoremediation was also brought up as fungi have been shown to remediate soils contaminated with lead and bacteria in streams.
Finally, we began discussing possible solutions including decentralized water systems as discussed by Matt Grocoff and U of M’s BlueLAB as well as Nate Ayers and Jesse Tack of Flint Water Solutions. The possibility of mycoremediation was also brought up as fungi have been shown to remediate soils contaminated with lead and bacteria in streams. Students also performed experiments with Lisa Johnson exploring corrosion.
Our investigation of the Dioxane Plume in Ann Arbor began with a similar approach. After gathering the basic facts, we traveled to Danny’s house which is located within the area affected by the plume. There we met Roger Rayle, co-founder and chairman of Scio Residents for Safe Water, a watchdog group that has monitored the spread of the plume and pressured government officials to take action. Roger shared several maps he had made on Google Earth showing the spread of the plume over time and talked about the ways it has and will continue to affect residents that get their water from wells as well as those on city water, as the plume makes its way towards Barton Pond, which provides 85% of the city’s drinking water.
As for solutions, we discussed how a decentralized water system would benefit Ann Arbor and are constructing a rain barrel with the hopes of investigating the potability of rainwater collected onsite. We also tested Carbon filtration with Lisa Johnson and will be experimenting with solar stills in the coming weeks.
Finally, after Clara sent me a report claiming dioxane-contaminated groundwater may be surfacing in West Park, we discussed phytoremediation (using plants to decontaminate pollutants) and a study that showed hybrid poplar trees being used in phytoremediation of dioxane. We will be contacting city officials and sending the information along with the hopes that they will investigate and take action.
Many of the students were nervous about presenting but walked away feeling more confident and empowered by the responses. It was so great to see them engaged with coalition members of all ages and excited to return next year to share their efforts.