Huron IB science students get hands-on experience with soil conservation at the Freeman Environmental Education Center

DP science students sample & test soil working across disciplines during day of learning, research, and presentation

Huron High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP) science students dug deep into soil conservation recently during an immersive learning experience at the Freeman Environmental Education Center.

Located on 40 acres just northeast of Ann Arbor, the center is AAPS’ home of the Environmental Education Program, and site of field trips, professional development, and other education activities.

The cross-disciplinary initiative involved biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental systems students teaming up to sample, test, and research soils.

Led by environmental teacher Coert Ambrosino, students spent the overcast autumn day getting hands-on with soil in Freeman’s sprawling fields. They later utilized labs to analyze samples and dove into studying global soil preservation practices.

Spending much of the day at Freeman allowed an interdisciplinary group of young learners the rare opportunity to explore a real-world issue through the lens of the scientific method, said IB Facilitator Carrie James.

“Today we had our Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Environmental Systems and Societies students work together practicing the traits of an IB Learner to look at the social and ethical implications of soil health here in their neighborhoods and in far-reaching parts of the globe,” she said.  “The goal isn’t for these students to answer the soil conservation questions of our world through this project. Rather, we hope that today gives them inspiration to look more closely at the environmental practices near them and to recognize themselves as having the capability to be problem-solving global citizens.

Huron science teacher Victoria Sturt said the experience was outside the students’ comfort zone—and that’s when the best learning happens.

“They’re going to be talking about this a year later – the fact that they all got through the muddy, rainy day together.”

“I’m really excited that we get to bring the students out to do actual field work at the Freeman Center today. When we started out working on the group project we had the students getting together in the cafeteria. They were able to work together and that was wonderful, but there’s nothing like actually being on site and getting hands-on experience, so I’m really glad to have this opportunity.”

Ambrosino says October will continue to be a busy, fun month at the Freeman Environmental Education Center.

The Center will host high school environmental science classes for a “Keys to the Forest” field trip featuring woody plant identification and management.  Second grade classes will participate in half-day “Plant Communities” field trips, and half-day Zero Waste lessons led by Ecology Center instructors.

Freeman will also host groups of Huron’s Career-related Programme students for two days of service-learning, with a focus on planting native tree saplings grown from seed in the outdoor nursery. A group of University of Michigan Program in the Environment and School for Environment and Sustainability students will visit Freeman to learn about the AAPS Environmental Education Program, and Master’s student Esha Biswas’ work on the prairie restoration study plot project.

Also, the Freeman Environmental Youth Council will begin meeting the month to participate in a native plant seed collection and cleaning workshop.

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