Getting Youth Outside and Learning Together

One light bulb, one recycling bin, and one classroom at a time – this is the mindset at SEEDS Ecology & Education Centers about changing the world. It is also a testament of their commitment to action. 

The mission of the environmental organization is to implement local solutions to global issues at the intersection of ecology, education, and design. One of SEEDS’ primary programs, EcoSchool, brings place-based learning opportunities to students across Northern Michigan. The teaching staff prioritizes hands-on and outdoor activities that develop leadership, life skills, and resilience. 

EcoSchool partners with 11 Northern Michigan schools to provide free, quality, afterschool programs. All are located in the Benzie, Forest Area, Kaleva Norman Dickson, Kalkaska, Marion, and Mesick school districts. In 2021, EcoSchool provided over 700 rural students with experiential learning, ecology, and ecoSTEM programming. It invested 85,000 contact hours in students attending rural public schools and spent one out of every three hours on STEM and academic activities. 

EcoSchool works with youth year round, and activities are influenced by each community. Favorite activities include getting outside and being hands-on. 

EcoSchool at Marion Elementary School has a robust garden and composting program. Students grow vegetables and herbs and learn how to both cook with them and compost the scraps. “SEEDS is all about seeds, so you’ve got to have a garden! We’re sprouting new ideas in children and helping those ideas grow. It’s part of them blossoming into wonderful human beings,” said Kris Benke, an EcoSchool staff member.

EcoSchool at Forest Area Middle School has a sugar shack in the school forest. During the winter, students learn about maple sugaring by participating in the entire process. They tap the trees, empty the buckets, boil the sap, and bottle the finished syrup.

EcoSchool at Benzie Central High School and Academy takes advantage of being geographically close to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. They explore the natural area through field trips and learn about conservation work, such as maintaining the piper plover habitat.

SEEDS believes that the biggest returns come from investments in youth. The team at SEEDS shares their love of nature and practicing teamwork to inspire local youth to be the change they want to see in the world.

Lars, a student at Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools, said, “SEEDS taught me different ways to work with others and how to be more confident. I want to be the type of person who is caring and supportive of friends.” 

Alexis, a student at Forest Area Middle School, added, “SEEDS is helping me be more kind by being around more people and trusting them. I want to be the kind of person who people can look up to and feel safe to talk to.”

EcoSchool is funded in part through 21st Century Community Learning Centers. All programs are focused on cultivating Reciprocal Healing between Humanity, and the World. As a nonprofit, SEEDS accepts contributions of expertise, time, and money. Donations not only support SEEDS but also contribute to saving the world. Call (231) 947-0312 or visit ecoseeds.org for more information.  

To donate, volunteer, or learn more, visit www.ecoseeds.org.

SEEDS Ecology & Education Centers
800 Cottageview Dr., Ste 1080, Traverse City, 49684