Community Conservation Science Youth

TU aids with outdoor learning in Michigan

Outdoor education shouldn’t be a privilege of only rural schools. At Trout Unlimited, we believe all students should have access to high quality outdoor learning and we’re putting this belief to practice in Grand Rapids Public Schools.  

This spring, Trout Unlimited has partnered up with after-school programs in two Grand Rapids city schools, Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy and Dickinson Academy, to help add outdoor and hands on learning opportunities that are often neglected as a part of the curriculum in our current era of high-stakes test-based accountability. 

Through these after-school programs, Trout Unlimited has been able to introduce topics of watershed education, STEM, and coldwater conservation through a variety of fun, hands-on activities. 

Students mimicked a watershed using crumpled paper and spray bottles and drew the elements of a healthy stream on the sidewalk using chalk (top image) and began to improve their environmental literacy while discussing watershed topics and sources of pollution. 

They looked at stream insects from a local creek and then played ‘Macroinvertebrate Mayhem’ to understand how pollution affects sensitive and tolerant insects differently. They even got to practice their casting with fly rods to catch ‘lawn trout’ right outside their school.   

Students got to fish for “lawn trout” during recent outdoor education sessions in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Studies have shown that outdoor education and learning through experiences are beneficial for students but are not prevalent in schools due to lack of funding and resources. That’s where organizations with expertise and resources for outdoor education, such as Trout Unlimited, can step in and support schools, whether they are in the city or in more rural areas.  

Trout Unlimited is grateful for educators like Keli Christopher, who brought in Trout Unlimited to her after-school programs and organizations like Our Community’s Children, which connects educators with community partners through the STEM Professional Learning Community and promotes quality after-school programs through the Expanded Learning Opportunities Network

The Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project is funded by the Frey Foundation, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Wege Foundation, the Wolverine World Wide Foundation, and the Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited. 

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.