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Bringing it All Back Home

Let me begin by expressing my deep gratitude for the opportunity Alcoa has provided me for attending the Key Issues Institute in Keystone, Colorado last July. It was a wonderful learning experience that has provided me with ideas about how to reach my students in a more real world context. I have come back with a different way of looking at the environmental health of our own community and a process to initiate a positive change.

AVC Olewine Alcoa TarankoCurrently, my students are working on a proposal to team with Duck Lake State Park to tackle some of the environmental issues facing the park. The ideas have come from our participation in the Alliance for the Great Lakes Beach Sweep back in September at the park. Based on our data collection and a guided tour, the students have chosen trash and recycling and non-native species of plants. We are currently researching these issues and have begun reaching out to community resources for information and assistance.

Future plans include expanding the project into other curricular areas using student presentations and writing letters to community groups for language arts, mapping and measuring the park trails for math, and researching the history of the park and surrounding area to create informational signs for language arts and social studies. This project has been able to get off the ground with the help from Jan Klco, our History Day coach, and Robb Zoellmer, a state park staff member. I will also be presenting a summary of our project next March at the Michigan Science Teachers Association State Conference in Lansing.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to attend the Key Issues Institute.

Derek Taranko is an educator from Whitehall, Michigan, and attended Key Issues Institute in 2013 with sponsorship from Alcoa.