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State program recognizes nearly 200 Michigan schools for environmental education

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Starting a recycling program, participating in a park clean up, or building a rain garden are just some of the activities recognized by what the state calls the “Michigan Green Schools" program.

Eileen Boekestein is an Environmental Education Coordinator with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She said engaging in activities can help students become more informed and empowered to tackle larger issues.

“Young people need that knowledge to be engaged and knowledgeable citizens," she said. "They need to understand what the unique needs are of our state and what role they can play in making a difference. They are going to be our leaders one day.”

The program was originally part of a nonprofit, but is now housed with EGLE Classroom. This is the program's first year run through the state, and it includes pre-K through 12 schools.

Nearly half of the 196 participating schools received the "Evergreen" rating, the highest honor.

Boekestein said the activities are meant to build "environmental literacy" among students.

“There’s a wide range of activities they can do, but the goal is to both learn about the environment and take steps to protect the environment," she said. "We want them to feel like they can understand the issues, but also feel equipped to take action.”

Interested schools can report their activities to their county coordinator of the Green Schools program, or reach out to EGLE directly.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at https://www.reportforamerica.org/