LEEP: LAKESHORE ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAM
1. LEEP reflects long term commitments to environmental education by Wetland Watch and C.O.R.E. (Clean Up Our River Environment.) Wetland Watch started a summer Wetland Detective program in 2005 at Spring Lake Intermediate School, sponsored by Dr. Sylvia and Mr. Ron Ruscett. That program added an after school spring component. When Jessica O’Donnell had to step back, the summer program moved to Central High School in Grand Haven, and then to the Ottawa County Parks..Eight years of generous support from the Aquatic Education Group of Chicago helped make this program possible. C.O.R.E. has a Grand Haven 6th grade presentation of ecology and conservation every spring.
2. In 2012, Sylvia Ruscett supported a new initiative: a year round environmental education program. A planning committee was formed as LEEP that included members of Wetland Watch and C.O.R.E, retired teachers, and Grand Valley State University faculty member.
3. We implemented after school environmental education clubs in the spring of 2012 in each of the following locations: Spring Lake Intermediate School, Spring Lake Middle School, White Pines Intermediate School and Lakeshore Middle School. Each of these groups was eight weeks long. In Spring Lake, the groups were led by a retired science teacher and GVSU interns. In Grand Haven the groups were led by a retired teacher and a current teacher.
4. LEEP has worked with GVSU students who compiled a survey of Green School involvement in our tri-cities public schools. One of these students has continued with our program as a volunteer environmental science consultant. The two programs this year in Spring Lake are moving their schools to Green School status.
5. In 2012-2013, we planned for year round environmental education experiences: participation in the Earth Day Fair, opportunities to attend a week long Wetland Detectives Camp at Ottawa County Parks, and a Grand Lady Riverboat cruise on October 6 for LEEP participants and their families
6. For 2013-2014, Wetland Watch applied for and received a grant from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation Youth Fund to continue this program. We started the middle school programs in the fall. The intermediate school programs will begin in April. This year, we have added a summer overnight camping opportunity for 15 LEEP students at Camp Pendalouan. The cost this year is provided by Ron and Sylvia Ruscett.
7. We are pleased to report that in the two middle schools, LEEP students who participated in the fall after school club are continuing to meet, initiating and promoting school wide environmental awareness.
8. In 2015, we added two new schools: St. Mary's Catholic School and West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics. Along with Spring Lake Intermediate School and White Pines Intermediate Schools, 54 students are signed up for an 8 week hand-on after school experience.
We feel confident to say, borne out by enthusiastic reception at the schools and enthusiastic student comments, that LEEP adds an important educational component for our area’s intermediate and middle school students: hands-on, project based, small group activity in environmental science.