2018-05-20 / Insight

Flint River GREEN gets students close to waterway

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Area students perform tests on water samples from the Flint River. Locally, students from North Branch High School led by Carrie Wenta, Chatfield School led by Annette Young and LakeVille Middle School led by Patrick Burris participated in the decade-old Flint River GREEN program. 
Photo by Phil Foley Area students perform tests on water samples from the Flint River. Locally, students from North Branch High School led by Carrie Wenta, Chatfield School led by Annette Young and LakeVille Middle School led by Patrick Burris participated in the decade-old Flint River GREEN program. Photo by Phil Foley LAPEER COUNTY — “Once they get out there, they totally get it,” observed Rebecca Fedewa, executive director at the Flint River Watershed Coalition (FRWC).

For the past decade sixth through twelfth-grade students in Lapeer, Genesee and, most recently, Saginaw County have made annual pilgrimages to the banks of the Flint River and its tributaries to collect water samples to conduct chemistry tests.

They get to look at some real-life problems,” said Annette Young, a teacher at Lapeer’s Chatfield School who’s been taking her middle school students down to Farmers Creek for the past seven years.


Chatfield School teacher Annette Young said students participating in the Flint River GREEN program are often surprised to discover the river is a lot cleaner and healthier than they thought. Chatfield School teacher Annette Young said students participating in the Flint River GREEN program are often surprised to discover the river is a lot cleaner and healthier than they thought. Friday (May 18) some of her students were able to share the results of what they found this year with students from across the watershed at the Flint River GREEN Student Summit at Kettering University.

Prior to the summit said Autumn Mitchell, program manager for Flint River Green, “Students spend an average of two weeks inside and outside of the classroom working together with their peers, learning about water quality, discovering their personal connection to the watershed, exploring STEM careers, honing their presentation skills, and learning new ways to become environmental stewards.”

She noted, “The summit provides students with their first professional conference experience and allows sharing of information from school to school demonstrating how we are all connected.”


Students write down the results of their chemical testing of Flint River water. Their data is shared with environmental groups and agencies across the region. Students write down the results of their chemical testing of Flint River water. Their data is shared with environmental groups and agencies across the region. Young said, working with Mitchell as a mentor, her students tested water for pH levels, dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), phosphates, nitrates and turbidity. She added they also took temperature readings at two spots about 200 yards apart on the creek.

Young said her students were surprised to find the creek’s pH levels significantly higher than expected. She said where the creek normally tests at a seven, this year the water tested at nine. She said other teams across the watershed got similar results, but no one was sure why.

“It’s a good experience for kids,” she said. Young said it’s one thing to do things in a classroom, “it’s a lot more exciting to apply it.”

Fedewa said one of her staffers was recently chatting with the receptionist at her dentist and learned the receptionist’s son went through the Flint River GREEN program and is now working on an environmental science degree and interning with the state Dept. of Natural Resources this summer.

She said that while not every student will become an environmental scientist, the program does expose a lot of students to the idea of environmental stewardship.

Fedewa said between Lapeer and Genesee counties, the program fluctuates between 1,000 and 1,200 students annually.

Kim Perreault, an Imlay City Middle School science teacher, attended the teacher’s conference at the beginning of the program earlier this year and while she found there wasn’t enough Flint River Watershed in her school district to make participation practical, “the conference was awesome.”

She said she would recommend any middle or high school science teacher with access to the river to participate. “It’s something that kids can really get in to,” she said.

Young said the biggest thing her students learned was the river isn’t as dirty as they thought. She said they found that while it might be muddy, it’s actually fairly healthy in Lapeer.

Return to top

Copyright © 2009-2018 The County Press, All Rights Reserved

Click here for the E-Edition
2018-05-20 digital edition

Unrestricted access available to web site subscribers

Subscribers to the County Press newspaper can now purchase the complete online and E-Edition of the paper for as little as $5 for three months. If you want a six month subscription to the online edition it is $10 and a full year can be purchased for $20.

Non-subscribers can sign up for the online version for $15 for three months, $30 for six months and $60 for an annual subscription.