Welcome to AAPS Environmental Education  

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

Welcome back, AAPS!

AAPS teachers and EE program staff are busily preparing for the 2019-20 school year, and we are so excited to welcome students back to school.  We look forward to another great year of serving the Ann Arbor community and reaching 9,000+ AAPS students with impactful environmental education programming!

Local News of Note:

*The Washtenaw County Conservation District's Tree and Native Plant Sale is coming soon! Plant some native trees and plants to sequester carbon and enhance local habitat! See details at: www.washtenawcd.org.

*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.

*There are a number of upcoming events being offered around town that are connected to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Click the links below to learn more!
                *Washtenaw County Clean-Up Day on Saturday, September 14. Safely recycle or dispose of various materials.

                *Check out the "Power Hour" events on September 17 and December 3 to learn how to increase your home's energy efficiency. Free events offered by the City of Ann Arbor's Office of Sustainability and Innovations.

                *Tour the Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant on September 21 to learn more about how wastewater is safely processed in our community.


*Service-learning in Mitchell-Scarlett Woods

Mitchell-Scarlett Woods has a long-running history of community activism and stewardship. In June, 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.

    *John Russell, local environmental activist and former AAPS teacher, was recently featured on WEMU's "The Green Room" to talk about the beginning of the Earth Day movement in Ann Arbor.  You can read or listen to the story here. You can also take a look at this classic video about the Pioneer High School prairie restoration project in the 1990s!   

       *Speaking of the Pioneer Prairie, local contractors and naturalists around town took advantage of wet Spring weather to carry out prescribed burns, which mimic natural fires and help rejuvenate native grass and flower growth while reducing invasive plants.  Check out this drone footage of a recent burn at a prairie in Scio Township.

    *Check out this interview with Matt Doss from WEMU's "Issues of the Environment" program! Matt is the policy director of the Great Lakes Commission (As well as a Freeman EE Center advisory committee member!), and in this interview he speaks about past and future impacts of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    *Congratulations to the Thurston Nature Center for winning a Washtenaw County water quality award!  Click here to see the story and here to see a great video from 1967 about student involvement in habitat restoration at Thurston!

    *“Visible Green Home” Tour Showcases Local Home Construction Project Pursuing LEED Certification

For years, David and Alisande Read have allowed the EE program access to their beautiful prairie and wetland to facilitate outdoor learning experiences for AAPS students.  Now they have opened up the construction process of their new home to teach others about the green building strategies they have incorporated into the design!

Architect Michael Klement of Architectural Resource is hosting a series of tours to highlight features of the project during different phases of construction.  Over Spring Break, EE staff members were able to attend one of the tours to learn about the many design features the Reads have included as they strive for Net-Zero Energy and LEED Platinum Certification of the home.

During the presentation, Michael explained the affordances and challenges of the building site that his team considered in order to create an efficient and functional design of the home’s systems.  Features include high-performing roof and exterior wall assemblies, Structural Insulated Panels, geothermal heating and cooling system, WarmForm insulated slab, airlock vestibule, passive solar design, and stormwater management through the use of 3 rain gardens!  

There was a great turn out of interested local residents at the event who were excited to learn about these and other environmentally-friendly home building strategies. You can learn more about this inspiring project at 713project.com.

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! 

Coert Ambrosino joins EE staff as an AAPS Environmental Education Teacher

We are excited to announce that the EE program has grown with the hiring of Coert Ambrosino as an environmental education teacher for Ann Arbor Public Schools! Coert is a product of AAPS (having attended Abbot, Forsythe, and Pioneer), with fond memories of EE programming with Bill Browning. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan in Latin American Studies and Environmental Studies, completing a senior thesis on environmental and social impacts of monoculture pineapple production in Costa Rica after attending a semester abroad ecology program there. Coert later returned to UM to earn his masters in Elementary Education. 

Coert has ten years of diverse teaching experience in North Carolina, Colorado, and Michigan. His recent professional accomplishments include facilitating district-level professional development, serving as a Gifted & Talented Program school liaison, and coauthoring multiple academic articles. Coert has served in various roles for AAPS, most recently as a second grade teacher at Mitchell Elementary and as a lead teacher for the SESLA summer program for 4th-8th graders. He also has a rich background in camping, having spent two summers working at camps in upstate New York and seven summers at Ann Arbor YMCA Camp Al-Gon-Quian, in roles ranging from nature activity leader, to head male counselor, to assistant director. 

Coert is a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation.  He is also a member of the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education, and is planning to finish their EEC program with a capstone project related to the development of new programming at the Freeman Environmental Education Center. He enjoys working with students of all ages, and he is very excited to bring his instructional, administrative, and leadership experience to serve the EE program!

Volunteer Spotlight: Judy and Manfred Schmidt

Judy and Manfred Schmidt are dedicated volunteers and stewards of the environment!  They started volunteering on AAPS EE field trips in 1997, and continue to find tremendous joy in sharing their love of the natural world with students.

Since the 1970s, Judy and Manfred have devoted themselves to the sustained health of the ecosystems in Scarlett-Mitchell Nature Area, including the restoration of the pond. Today, students continue to walk the woods and survey the pond on field trips.

Judy and Manfred have also volunteered thousands of hours promoting and assisting Ann Arbor’s Natural Area Preservation. They were recognized for their dedication to environmental preservation and education in 2010 with an honorary proclamation from the City of Ann Arbor.

Judy is retired from AAPS, where she served as a librarian at Clague. She is an active member of the Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild and an avid quilter. Manfred has retired from landscaping but continues to do much of the same physically challenging work as part of his volunteer efforts. 

Thank you, Judy and Manfred!

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.