On the Banks of the Red Cedar

Student(s): Steven Neal
Date: April 9th, 2013 Grade Level(s): 10
Subject: Earth Sciences class at East Lansing Multicultural High School
Instructor: Carla Stone      Email: stoneshores@comcast.net
Teaching Assistant: Bella Tirtowalujo      Email: tirtowal@msu.edu

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Name of Project: “On the Banks of the Red Cedar!”


Project Overview

Give a brief overview of the project you are planning.

Tenth grade students in Earth Science at East Lansing Multicultural High School will be studying a unit on Environmentalism and proper stewardship of the Earth. They will be investigating the different systems of Earth and how they interact and affect one another; furthermore, the students will be conducting a specific scientific investigation of the role and functions of rivers. Each Earth Science class will contact the Landscape Services division of the Michigan State University Physical Plant to set up dates and times to observe and clean the Red Cedar River near the center of Michigan State University’s campus. A professor of ecology or earth science will be coming into the classroom to speak with the students about the importance of environmental stewardship and how each person plays a role in the process of preserving the Earth.


Effective Practice: MEANINGFUL SERVICE

Service learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.

What community need will you address and how did you determine the need?

The community need we are addressing with this service learning project is the need for environmental clean-up in the East Lansing area. The need was determined through an analysis of the condition of natural areas in and around the city. Students and their parents were asked to walk around the campus of Michigan State University and the adjacent neighborhoods. Many students noted that sections along the Red Cedar River were filled with refuse.

What service will you provide to address the need?

Every Earth Science class at East Lansing Multicultural High School will be coordinating dates and times for them to clean different sections of the Red Cedar River in the center of Michigan State University’s campus. We will remove any litter from the river and the riverbanks. If any materials can be recycled (plastics, metals, etc.), students will sort the materials and take them to the appropriate recycling bins located throughout campus.


Effective Practice: LINK TO CURRICULUM

Service learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.

 How is this project related to your curriculum?

“On the Banks of the Red Cedar!” is related to the Earth Sciences curriculum at East Lansing Multicultural High School through its focus on the Earth’s spheres interactions with one another in a given environment and how human interference can alter the effectiveness of these spheres’ functions. The Red Cedar River is part of the hydrosphere, and it is in constant interaction with facets of the geosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. The pollution that enters the Red Cedar affects the river’s water quality and banks. Furthermore, it inhibits plant and animal life (biosphere) that make their homes in and around the river. By cleaning sections of the Red Cedar, many students will be able to see the before and after effects of pollution on a body of water near the school.

What are the educational goals?

There are four educational goals of “On the Banks of the Red Cedar!” an increase in environmental stewardship; learning about the Earth’s major systems and how they interact; learning the various processes that occur in and around rivers; and how to make educated, testable scientific inquiries. Students will learn how to properly take care of the environment through the service of cleaning up the Red Cedar; furthermore, they can learn that even an individual can make a difference in the process of taking care of the environment. Through studies about the Earth’s systems and how they interact, students will be able to learn about the functions of the major spheres of Earth. Students will be able to experience and understand the multiple processes that occur in and around rivers as well. Finally, students are expected to develop educated and logical scientific inquiries in regards to the information learned in the unit.

State Standards and Benchmarks
List standards and benchmarks met by this project.

Earth Sciences Standards of the State of Michigan
• E1.1A Generate new questions that can be investigated in the laboratory or field
• E2.1B Analyze the interactions between the major systems (geosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere) that make up the Earth
• E2.1C Explain, using specific examples, how a change in one system affects other Earth systems
• E4.p1A Describe that the water cycle includes evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface run-off, groundwater, and absorption.
• E4.p1C Describe the river and stream types, features, and process including cycles of flooding, erosion, and deposition as they occur naturally and as they are impacted by land use decisions


Effective Practice: REFLECTION

Service learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.

What form(s) of reflection will you use with the students to help them identify what they have learned and accomplished?

There will be multiple forms of reflection involved in the process of the service learning project and after its completion. During the service learning project, students will be required to keep journals of their experiences during the service. For example, I may ask the students to write about what they see and feel at the Red Cedar, why they think their work is important, and any questions they have throughout the process. The explanations of these feelings can reveal how the students are responding to the learning about the Earth sciences as well as what they think their role is in terms of the project and as an environmental steward. Several students and I will be taking pictures of the Red Cedar River before, during, and after the completion of the cleaning; students can use their pictures in their journals or to make a photo exposé on the conditions of the environment. After we have completed the service learning project, students will be expected to synthesize their experiences of cleaning the Red Cedar River and the information learned in class to make a presentation or performance. This post-service project will promote critical thinking about multiple effects of human interference in the Earth’s major systems. These projects can formal reports, photo collaborations, pieces of art, artistic performances, posters, etc.; they will be expected to express their thoughts and knowledge about the subject.


Effective Practice: DIVERSITY

Service learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.

What types of diverse perspectives and experiences will be explored as part of your project?

(i.e.: cultural, generational, abilities/disabilities, learning styles, etc.)

The students will explore a variety of perspectives environmentalism from professional opinions. In class, we will research the scientific community’s differing thoughts on human interference in Earth’s spheres (with a particular focus on the hydrosphere and rivers). Furthermore, everyone in the class will be expected to formulate their own opinion on the importance of environmental stewardship; we will have a class discussion in which each student will express their opinion and discuss it with the class. The students will be able to recognize others’ points of view and develop interpersonal skills through proper observance and behavior in the group discussion.


Effective Practice: YOUTH VOICE

Service learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service learning experiences with guidance from adults.

How will students gain ownership of the project?

The students will be able to gain ownership of the service learning project in several ways. Firstly, the students will be in charge of contacting the Michigan State University Physical Plant to schedule dates and times to clean the river. At this time, these students will need to inquire as to what materials need to be obtained beforehand. Secondly, each Earth Science class will need to create teams to clean specific parts of the river. Thirdly, several students will be taking pictures of the areas of the Red Cedar River before, during, and after the completion of the service project. Finally, I will ask the students to voice their opinions as to the effectiveness of the project. We will have class discussion about the project and our effect on the Red Cedar River; furthermore, evaluation forms will be provided for each student to complete. From these evaluations and discussions, we can determine the overall effectiveness of the program and discover how it may need to be altered to promote better learning and experiences.



Service learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.

Who will you partner with for this project?

We will partner with the Landscape Services division of the Michigan State University Physical Plant to coordinate the cleaning of the Red Cedar River. The acting director of this division will be our primary contact.

How will students benefit from this partnership?

The students will benefit from this partnership because it allows them to develop communication and organizational skills while simultaneously applying the classroom information that they have learned to impact their community. Students will learn how to contact officials via email or telephone and how to convey messages to the rest of the class in an appropriate amount of time. Furthermore, the students can use the knowledge they obtained from Earth Science class to make an impact on the condition of their community. For example, students can analyze how the pollution from the biosphere (refuse, excrement, etc.) affects the waters of the Red Cedar and how to effectively clean it to promote optimal functionality.

How will the partner benefit from this collaboration?

The Michigan State University Physical Plant will benefit from the collaboration with the East Lansing Multicultural School because they will be able to get assistance in cleaning the areas along the Red Cedar as well as instilling a sense of responsibility for the environment in the minds of the next generation. The Physical Plant services the entirety of Michigan State University’s campus; therefore, they are required to maintain the natural areas of the large university. With assistance from a group of students, they can help clean the riverbanks and river closely. The actual service learning project gives the Physical Plant the opportunity to teach potential incoming Michigan State University freshmen to respect the Red Cedar and other natural areas of the university.



Service learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.

How will you assess the student learning goals?

I will assess the student learning goals by analyzing their reflection journals and determining if they see the connections between the classroom work and the service learning experiences. The reflection journals are valuable tools to determine if students understand what is being asked of them. For example, I will ask students to develop testable inquiries in regards to their work at the Red Cedar River. These inquiries should be written in their journals so I can give adequate feedback to their ideas. This process can function effectively throughout the entire service learning project. I can encourage students to make deeper connections with the curricular content and the hands-on experience of the project. Also, I will follow up with students individually or in small groups to determine if they can see the importance of the work they are doing in their community. This follow-up session can be informally as we are working in the river or in a more formal classroom discussion. Both options are valid assessment methods, and they can give me a lot of information about how students feel and think about the learning and the service learning project.

How will you assess your service goals?

I plan to assess the service goals that were developed by the students, the community partner, and me by collecting evaluations and suggestions for improvement from the Earth science classes and the Michigan State University Physical Plant. From the beginning of the service learning project, I plan to keep a record of what our service goals are. For example, I can write the goals on a large sheet of paper and keep the list in the classroom. Throughout the project, my students and I can look to see if we are accomplishing each goal and whether we need to make any change or not. Furthermore, I intend to be in continual contact with Sean O’Connor, the acting director of Landscape Services, and other members of the Physical Plant to make sure our service goals are accomplish-able and manageable. If a specific aspect of the project cannot work, I can ask what I can do to remedy the problem.



Service learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.

How will you prepare students for this experience?

I will prepare students for the experience of service learning by providing an in-depth and understandable explanation of the whole project. The students should know what the Michigan State University Physical Plant expects in terms of their service and their behavior while working on campus. I will explain how the service learning fits within the current curriculum and how it will benefit both the students and the environment. I will tell them what materials they need to acquire before working at our service learning location several weeks before the actual date. Furthermore, if any student or their parents have questions or concerns with the service learning project, I will encourage them to contact me for more details or better explanations of the process.

What are some sample possible activities students might do as part of this project?

While in class, students can learn more about the specifics of the modern-day water pollution and the quality of the Red Cedar River. Firstly, students can conduct research on what the typical causes of water pollution are and whether these sources of pollution are point (from a single identifiable source) or non-point (from multiple indeterminable sources). Secondly, they can conduct an experiment on how pollution affects water sources. Using water from the Red Cedar or from elsewhere, they can inject different kinds of chemicals and refuse into samples and examine the effects under a microscope. Thirdly, students can research how human interference in the Red Cedar River can affect biological processes and the other major systems of Earth (biosphere, geosphere, and atmosphere). Finally, students can make their approach to water pollution and clean-up more global by researching other bodies of water throughout the world and what legislation and policy-making are being developed to combat these environmental issues.



The three arms of sustainability are environmental stewardship, economic growth, and social progress. Think planet, profit, and people.

Describe how your project addresses the issue of sustainability?

“On the Banks of the Red Cedar!” is a service learning project that addresses multiple areas of sustainability. The project is based upon the tenet of environmental stewardship; students will be providing a service for the improvement of the environment by cleaning the Red Cedar River and the natural areas alongside the river. Furthermore, the project will instill good environmental practices in the students. By seeing the damage that pollution can do to the hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and geosphere, students will be encouraged to improve their interactions with the environment and take better care of the natural areas in East Lansing. This instillation of good habits promotes positive social-environmental progress in the students. They will be encouraged to share their experiences of helping the environment with their peers and family. With luck, these practices will spread to the larger community and improve the relationship between people and the environment.