7th Annual SEMIS Coalition brings area schools and community leaders together

Seventeen Southeast Michigan schools and 26 community partners participated in the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition Monday morning in the Student Center.

The coalition was an opportunity for Eastern staff, community leaders and area schools to come together and learn together.

The morning started off with SEMIS Director Ethan Lowenstein thanking all the attendees for coming and giving a brief history of SEMIS.

The event consisted of 12 sessions grouped by fours into three time slots. Students, teachers and community leaders presented projects they had been working on.

Local historian and EMU alumnus Matt Siegfried led one of the sessions. The session — held outside the Student Center — focused on discovering the changing landscape of EMU’s Sleepy Hollow.

Siegfried took the group through the history of Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is the low part of campus where the Student Center and ponds are. He described where there used to be a creek running through that part of campus that drained into the Huron River.

Siegfried showed pictures of how the landscape has changed over the past 150 years. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the area underwent dramatic landscaping.

However, the bridge between the parking structure to the Student Center goes over what used to be part of Sleepy Hollow Creek.

“Campus kept that small part consciously to keep a reference for stories to see into the past,” Siegfried said.

Another one of the sessions was Learning from the Huron River Mural Project, which featured a mural that will be displayed at the College of Education starting June 11. A group of second to eighth graders worked on the place-based project.

The mural was a component of the research project. It featured animals, landmarks and nature that corresponded to the past and present of the Huron River.

Regina George, director of College of Education Urban Community and International Outreach, was invited to the event because of the support the COE provides the SEMIS Coalition.

“The thing I came out of [the event] with is what can EMU’s College of Education do more of to support teachers, particularly teachers in these kinds of place-based and land-based organic teaching,” George said.

Lowenstein elaborated on that comment. “This is what schooling can be for every child in our society, and this is what the kids can be if we create the right environments. The teachers in the College of Education need to be in the right environments to understand how to teach this way.”

After the sessions, attendees enjoyed lunch. It featured all local natural food and was a hit. Everyone at the event complemented the EMU chefs for the meal.

An award ceremony followed lunch. Several teachers and schools were awarded and commended for their outstanding work on their projects.

The session closed with a reflection session. Students shared how and what they enjoyed about the experience, and teachers praised the students and sessions.

Lowenstein thanked everyone for being a part of the event and said, “I was very struck and don’t think I can follow up the comment that this what a community feels like.”

“We started off this event five years ago with 40 people at the event and four teacher presentations,” Lowenstein said. “Now, I think there were over 150 students here, and most of the sessions involved student in a really active way.”

Lowenstein also said that next year, thanks to the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education, the coalition should be able to involve more of the EMU campus.

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