Welcome to AAPS Environmental Education  

Since 1960, our goal is to inform and educate students about the natural environment. Field trips are designed to support and enhance classroom curriculum, with specific tie-ins to grade-level science studies.  

Do you have a question about the program?  We would love to hear from you!  Email Dave Szczygiel (szczygie@aaps.k12.mi.us) or Coert Ambrosino (ambrosinoc@aaps.k12.mi.us).  Ask us about ways to support Environmental Education through volunteering and/or contributions to our program endowment, which is managed by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

The EE Program presents classroom lessons to our youngest AAPS naturalists!

*Environmental Education staff are wrapping up classroom visits to all AAPS Young Fives and Kindergarten sections. The Y5 program focuses on plants and seed dispersal, while the Kindergarten program teaches about animals through the seasons. Each lesson includes specimen studies, and it is really inspiring to see these young students engaging in scientific observation and discussion!

Here, EE teacher Coert Ambrosino leads an Interactive Read Aloud with a non-fiction text about seed dispersal.

Our outdoor winter programs are now underway, with fifth graders heading out for their Winter Survival experience and first graders visiting Kensington Metropark to study animals in winter!

Local News of Note:

We are currently reviewing applications for the inaugural "Pilot Team" for the Freeman Environmental Education Center Youth Council. We received over 40 applications and we are excited to select the pilot team and begin our work!


The Freeman EE Center Youth Council brings students together from all five AAPS high schools to collaborate around critical environmental issues that affect young people today and in the future. Youth Council members will work together to promote environmental literacy and carry out action projects that demonstrate and engage our school communities in stewardship and sustainability practices. 

The Youth Council will aim to support existing green clubs and district initiatives, as well as organize its own annual service project or educational event. Students will gain leadership, communication, and environmental advocacy skills as they carry out this important work.

The council will function within a “youth-adult partnership” framework, with students taking on legitimate leadership responsibilities and an adult liaison providing supervision, training, guidance, and resources. AAPS Environmental Education Teacher, Coert Ambrosino, will serve as the adult liaison. The Freeman EE Center will provide a potential site for meetings, events, and demonstration projects.

A ‘pilot team’ of 5-10 students will be selected this year as the inaugural members of the Youth Council. Positions will extend until the student graduates from high school or chooses to leave the committee. The 'Pilot Team' will be tasked with foundational activities, such as surveying existing high school green clubs to assess strengths and needs, creating a council mission, laying out a council structure and bylaws, and engaging in strategic planning and skill-building activities. This group of highly-motivated freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will become the core leadership group when the council expands to 15-20 students in the 2020-21 school year. Spaces will be reserved for students from each high school to ensure participation from across the district.


December 16, 2019:  Pilot Team announced by email. 2nd semester meeting dates set.

January-June 2020: Pilot Team meets (6 meetings) 

September 2020: Monthly meetings with the full council begin


*Check out the City of Ann Arbor's new A2Zero Website, where you can find information about the city's "just transition to carbon neutrality by the year 2030"! On the site you can take A2Zero Climate Initiative Survey, which is open until January 6.

*Do you or someone you know own lakefront property? Check out the new Shoreline Stewards video series about management practices that help ensure healthy lakes for future generations. If you are really interested in "diving into" more learning about lakes, check out the "Introduction to Lakes" six-week online course that is being offered my Michigan State University Extension from January 14 to March 13.

*On Saturday, November 9, 40+ students, staff, and community members came to the Pioneer Pond to volunteer for an outdoor work day. Activities included: clearing overgrowth around the amphitheater and pond access points (which we traditionally have used for 3rd grade pond habitat studies), trail maintenance, and invasive Buckthorn and Phragmites removal. It was hard work and we got a LOT accomplished. Big time thanks to UM's Circle K for sending volunteers to participate, and to Pioneer teachers Jenni Wilkening, Dave Russell, and Sarah Collada for helping to coordinate the event. Thanks also to Natural Areas Preservation (NAP) for lending us tools! EE Program staff were overjoyed to see so many students get involved and carry on the longtime tradition of environmental stewardship at Pioneer!

*Naturalist Tom Jameson was recently honored with a Recognition Award by the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) at their annual conference. Since 1992, Tom has volunteered more than 2,200 times for the Ann Arbor Public Schools EE Program, serving as a naturalist for programs including winter birds, life cycles study, habitat walks, pond dipping, gravel pit rocks and minerals study, and winter survival skill programs. Tom has demonstrated an incredible dedication to environmental interpretation and conservation in SE Michigan, volunteering extensively with the Huron River Watershed Council and the Waterloo Natural History Association in addition to his role as a volunteer naturalist with AAPS. Tom has a passion for teaching about the natural world for people of all ages, and his breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm for interpretation allow him to connect with diverse audiences and create lasting impacts. We are thankful for his many contributions and we congratulate him on this recognition from our statewide Environmental Education organization!

*Our 2019-20 A2SEEE Donor Letter was recently distributed to our wonderful community of supporters. You can click here to view the letter, see program updates, and learn how to support environmental education programming in AAPS. Thanks!

*If you're feeling discouraged by the news of declines in North American bird populations reported in the journal 'Science', take a look at this article from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology about how to take action.

*Apple Picking Party! The EE Program is always looking for ways to repurpose unwanted items within the district and put resources to use that would otherwise go to waste. Many of our fruit trees, such as those planted at Pioneer High School by former biology teacher John Russell, often go unharvested, leaving a rotting mess that has to be cleaned up by the grounds crew. When we noticed a bumper crop on apple trees at Pioneer and Freeman, we decided it was time for a picking party!  After work on a recent evening, Dave Szczygiel was joined by EE Program volunteers Jane and Dan Hayes, as well as Gabriella and Giana Porter, daughters of Pioneer Access and Opportunity Advocate Allen Porter, to harvest the ripe fruit. The apples, which are great for pie making, will be sold at Argus Farm Stop, with all proceeds benefiting the AAPS Science & Environmental Education Endowment Fund.

*Michigan to join the "Confluence of States" to promote the outdoor recreation industry~ Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced that Michigan is joining a nationwide consortium of states that work together "to build public awareness about the economic, social and public health benefits of outdoor play and provide a unified voice for the diverse businesses and organizations that make up the industry." While outdoor recreation already contributes to 230,000+ jobs in our state, this new initiative bodes well for students with aspirations of future careers in the industry. To learn more, read the DNR press release here.

*Check out the City of Ann Arbor's Fall/Winter WasteWatcher publication for updates on fall leaf collection, composting, and recycling.


*Service-learning in Mitchell-Scarlett Woods

Mitchell-Scarlett Woods has a long-running history of community activism and stewardship. In June 2019, the AAPS EE
Program helped carry on this tradition by coordinating service-learning activities for Scarlett 7th Grade science students.

Students spruced up the pollinator garden, mulched trails, created informational posters, and surveyed organisms i
n the
pond. They also created forest study plots where they surveyed the trees, removed invasive species, and planted Sugar
Maple saplings. Great job, students!

*AAPS EE Program Staff Visit Crop Spot Farms

On a beautiful Spring evening, EE Program staff had the pleasure of visiting with Nabeel Kasim of Crop Spot Farms, a local hydroponic produce farm that fits inside a single upcycled shipping container!  Using LED grow lights and a
purposefully-engineered vertical growing system, Kasim claims he can grow as much produce as a 2-acre farm annually, even though the physical footprint of his operation is less than 400 square feet!  

Located off of Wagner Road in Ann Arbor, Crop Spot Farms is highly water efficient and can produce year round, providing fresh greens to local restaurants and consumers and avoiding the heavy transportation and packaging requirements associated with other offseason vegetable distribution.  A young and enthusiastic entrepreneur, Kasim is motivated to provide healthy food to the local community and to leverage his farm to provide educational opportunities for students. Visit the Crop Spot Farms website to learn more and see Mlive’s write up about the company here.


AAPS is working to add hardwood trees to school campuses with the "Elementary Playground Shade Tree" program. Click here to see a presentation that EE program staff compiled to help teach about the planting initiative.

Trip Locations 
Click HERE for an alphabetical list of trip locations 

Get the latest news and consider donating to the Science and Environmental Education Endowment
Help secure the future of experiential, environmental education in our schools. Learn more by clicking HERE and thank you! 

Volunteer Spotlight: Russ Perigo

Russ Perigo began volunteering for the AAPS EE Program after attending a field trip with his son in 1999. Before retirement, Russ spent his career working as a
geophysicist and geologist, using specialized equipment such as imaging radar and satellites for various measurement and mapping applications.

Russ is an extremely generous volunteer, assisting with dozens of EE trips every school year. You can find him on almost every geology trip, guiding students through local gravel pits, identifying rock specimens, and sharing his infectious passion for geology. He is also a regular volunteer for sixth grade Urban Hydrology trips, where he teaches students about the impacts of stormwater runoff through a series of erosion experiments.

In addition to his regular volunteering, Russ serves as an expert consultant for the EE Program, providing advice and feedback on curriculum and instructional resource development.

We thank you for all of your contributions, Russ!

Click HERE to see more volunteer pictures.  

Volunteers make this program work! Community volunteers join AAPS teachers and EE staff in the field, sharing extensive knowledge about science and the natural environment. It is thanks to their dedication and participation that these field trips are enjoyable and productive for AAPS students. Thinking of volunteering?  Contact Dave Szczygiel at 734-368-5539 or szczygie@aaps.k12.mi.us to learn more.

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