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Published: April 20, 2008 09:36 am    print this story   email this story  

Rewarding Project: Teacher among winners

Lakeland teacher among NMEAC award winners


TRAVERSE CITY -- Kip Knight has seen the benefits of engaging students when it comes to the environment.

It took about a year for the Lakeland Elementary teacher to organize a day-long field trip for 85 fifth-graders to study water quality in downtown Elk Rapids. But the students' smiling faces as they stood knee-deep in the water was all he needed to know that his efforts weren't in vain.

"They are discovering, thinking, wondering. You realize that it is all worth the anxiety of pulling something like this off," Knight said. "My reward is seeing the kids taking it on and knowing they will benefit from this now and hopefully later on."

Knight received another reward Friday when he was named Environmental Educator of the Year by the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council at the organization's 20th anniversary awards ceremony.

"His work stood out because he takes kids out in the field and does hands-on activities, he doesn't just talk about it. It gives the kids an idea of the ecosystem of the river and the water, and you can't do that from in the classroom," said Greg Reisig, NMEAC board president. "He also got resource specialists with the Department of Natural Resources and the Grand Traverse Band involved."

Knight used ideas from a water-resource course he attended through Northwestern Michigan College. Students studied different elements of the fresh water ecosystem at three stations along the river and bay.

Environmental experts with the DNR, the Grand Traverse Band and AmeriCorps guided the students in testing pH levels, water flow and quality, and studying macro invertebrates in the river, Knight said.

Parents helped chaperone the event and environmental-studies students at Elk Rapids High School served as mentors in the river.

"Most of the kids, it's the river they swim in and play in. They have a vested interest in knowing the river is healthy, and that's what all the data indicated," Knight said. "Their charge now is to keep it that way."

NMEAC board member M'Lynn Hartwell said getting young people involved early is a critical component for future environmental advocacy and Knight's efforts are a great example of how it's done.

"Education is not only important, it's vital ... to get the young people engaged in the environment and get them familiar with the issues they will confront," Hartwell said. "Kip is a teacher that involves a lot of student activities and he also tries to work conservation and environmental issues into his studies. The kids are always fascinated by it ... especially when they can get in the water."

Award winners

Clarence Kroupa Award: Reg Bird, for his lifetime work with the Michigan Land Use Institute and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

John Nelson Water Steward Award: Tim Lodge and the Traverse City Engineering Department for their efforts in stormwater system improvements.

Profiles in Courage Award: The Acme Township Board for their efforts to resist pressures from Meijer Inc.

Golden Beaver Award: Sarna Salzman, for her work with SEEDS, Great Lakes Bioneers and in helping young farmers to secure land to practice and learn hands-on farming.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Bob Carstens, for his work with the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Environmentalist of the of the Year - Volunteer: for her diligence in striving to correct environmental problems by treating them as the basic human rights issues they are. Rev. Hartwell works locally, nationally, and worldwide; with politicians, organizations, and individuals to benefit the environment. Locally she manages "We Are Traverse City" a citizens resource devoted to regional sustainability.

Student Environmentalist of the Year: Jack Kerby-Miller, a Maple City sophomore at Glen Lake Schools who organized a two-day effort to raise awareness of global warming.

Environmentalist of the Year in Public Service or Public Office: Tom Ulrich, assistant superintendant of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, for incorporating public input into the park's General Management Plan.

Environmentalist of the Year in Business: Beth Collins, of Local Plates, a chef and school food service consultant who works with area organizations to devise more efficient and dynamic ways to build a healthy body.

Environmentalist of the Year in Journalism or Communications: Bob Allen, of Interlochen Public Radio, for his ongoing coverage of northern Michigan's environmental issues.

Environmental Grassroots Group of the Year: Traverse Bay Watershed Greens for serving as a political umbrella for area environmental action groups.

Environmental Educator of the Year: Kip Knight, for organizing a field trip for 85 fifth-grade students from Lakeland Elementary to explore aquatic life and ecosystems of the Elk River and Grand Traverse Bay.

Professional Environmentalist: Amy Beyer, executive director of the Conservation Resource Alliance, for helping form collaborative land use solutions among private land owners, government agencies and commercial businesses.

Volunteer Environmentalist: John Richter, with Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, who has led numerous efforts to stop oil and gas drilling within the boundaries of the Jordan River Natural Area.

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Kip Knight, a fifth-grade teacher at Lakeland Elementary School in Elk Rapids, was honored for a project that had his students jumping into the Elk River to learn about water quality. Jan-Michael Stump/Record-Eagle (Click for larger image)

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