Welcome to AAPS Environmental Education! 

Since 1960, the AAPS EE Program has been educating  and inspiring students through meaningful learning experiences in the natural environment. Lessons are designed to support and enhance classroom curriculum, most often with specific connections to grade-level science units.  We aim to help students become responsible environmental stewards, with the attitudes, understandings and skills to protect our one and only Earth now and in the future.

Have a question about the program?  We would love to hear from you!  Contact Dave Szczygiel at 734-368-5539 or szczygie@aaps.k12.mi.us or Coert Ambrosino at 734-474-5277 or ambrosinoc@aaps.k12.mi.us to learn more.

Interested in supporting our work? Please considering becoming a volunteer or contributing to the A2SEEE endowment .

During the 2023-24 school year, we are working to provide field experiences for approximately 500 Young Fives to Seventh Grade and high school environmental science classes across AAPS!

You can find an overview of our 2023-24 program offerings here.

Environmental Sustainability Framework approved by AAPS Board of Education

In December 2022, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education approved a robust sustainability framework for the school district, which includes plans for expanded sustainability and environmental justice learning opportunities for students.  EE Program staff contributed to the development of the instructional aspects of the plan, and are excited to support the implementation of new lessons throughout the district.

Huron IB Cooperative Science Research Project @ Freeman

In early October 2023, we hosted a large group of students from Huron High School's International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for a day of experiential learning at Freeman.  This year's research topic focused on soil conservation.  Check out this AAPS District News story to learn more.

University of Michigan Restoration Ecology Class Visit

In mid October 2023, UM School for Environment and Sustainability and Program in the Environment students from Dr. Sara Adlerstein-Gonzalez's course visited Freeman for a special learning opportunity.  Students learned about AAPS EE Program curricula, explored Master's student Esha Biswas' impressive work on our prairie restoration project, and participated in some hands-on service by collecting native grass and flower seeds and planting tree saplings.  We continue to collaborate with UM faculty and students in various ways and are grateful for this mutually-beneficial community partnership!

Huron IB Service-Learning;  October 19-20, 2023

Students from Huron High School's International Baccalaureate Diploma and Career Programmes planted 30 trees and helped remove invasive woody plants.  Learn more in this district news story here.

'A2 Nature Guardians' Summer Day Camp at Freeman

In July 2023, we welcomed two sessions of young campers to spend a week at the Freeman EE Center exploring ecology, restoration, and art concepts through project-based learning activities.  Campers contributed to our efforts to improve our native plant gardens and prairie restoration project, created a mural representing the Oak Barren habitat, played ecosystem games, painted prairie animals onto "pet rocks", spent time in the forest, and more!

Prairie Restoration Project Update

We are trialing the use of repurposed billboard vinyl to prepare another section of our prairie study plot project for planting.  The material is intended to smother the existing cool-season, non-native turf grass, in preparation for seeding native prairie grass and flower species, traditionally found in local Oak Barren habitats. Our hope is that the heavy-duty vinyl will be durable enough to be reused over many seasons for subsequent planting preparation. Thank you to Eberwhite teacher Fatema Alqamoussi for volunteering to help install the vinyl tarp.

We want to express our gratitude to the 50+ Huron High School students and staff who participated in a day of service at Freeman on April 14, 2023!  Students from the International Baccalaureate CP and DP programs helped with trail maintenance, and prepared another section of our front courtyard for planting.  They removed non-native and undesirable plants and sheet mulched approximately 600 square feet of garden with cardboard and hardwood mulch to prepare the area for a fall planting of native flowers and grasses. We appreciate you, student volunteers!

Native Plant Propagation at the Freeman EE Center

In 2022, we grew ~400 native flower and grass seedlings and ~80 tree saplings from seed at the Freeman EE Center. This nursery project was an awesome experiential learning opportunity that allowed us to explore seed stratification and germination, the characteristics and growing conditions of a wide range of native plants, and garden design. 

The plant material was used to renovate our front courtyard garden.

In 2023, we added an outdoor nursery area and produced approximately 650 herbaceous plant seedlings and 100 tree saplings. 

We are using these native plants for restoration and habitat enhancement projects at the Freeman EE Center.



Native plants in our front courtyard, in their second growing season (Photo taken July 2023)

Volunteer Spotlight: Char Hanchak

Char Hanchak’s experience with the EE Program began as a chaperone when her children participated in environmental field trips with Bill Browning.  Later on, Char taught multi-age early elementary classrooms, Kindergarten, Reading Recovery, and Reading Intervention for 25 years at Ann Arbor Open, and her connection to the program grew as she saw her students blossoming during EE learning opportunities led by Bill Browning and Dave Szczygiel.  


When Char retired from the classroom, she joined a variety of outdoor field trips as a volunteer, which gave her the opportunity to continue to experience and explore the world with kids.  During the 2021-2022 school year, after the pandemic pause, volunteering on field trips made it possible to spend time with kids in the out-of-doors and get back to working with young learners, which had been an important part of her weekly routine. Char now regularly volunteers during 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade field trips.


Char is excited about the growth and development of the Freeman EE Center.  She has watched the native plant garden take over in a space at the entrance that was overgrown and dominated by ornamental plants. The opportunities for student learning both indoors and outside are rapidly becoming a reality, and Char continues to support these efforts by leading groups in the field and contributing to other volunteer projects on site.


Thank you, Char!

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 or Coert Ambrosino at 734-474-5277 or ambrosinoc@aaps.k12.mi.us to learn more.

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! 

Website: EE webmaster - Coert Ambrosino; AAPS webmaster- John Stahly