Daughter and Father Team Up for Great Lakes Literacy

Liz Thomson, a first-grade teacher at Alcona Community Schools College, is credited with giving her 120 seventh and eighth graders a hands-on study of water and coastal wetlands through a grant from the State of Michigan. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) featured Thomson and his father, fellow teacher Bob Thomson, in a profile on its website.

Alcona is one of 16 schools or districts in Michigan to share $205,028 in grant funds to develop Great Lakes-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. Liz Thomson’s project received $6,892 to expand what’s called 3-P (problem-, place-, and project-based) learning by studying coastal and wetland habitats.

Liz Thomson (standing right with her father) participated in the Thunder Bay Watershed Project taught by her father, Bob Thomson. (Credit: Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant)

Liz’s father is her mentor teacher and a longtime teacher with the Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) network, a network run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant that engages in learning collective to promote Great Lakes literacy among educators and students. . In 2017, he was named Science Educator of the Year by the Michigan Science Teachers Association. When Liz was a student at Alpena Public Schools, she participated in Bob’s Thunder Bay Watershed Project, monitoring water quality, monitoring invasive species, studying marine debris, helping restore native fish populations, and Moreover.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced state funding in June 2022 to support freshwater literacy efforts and prepare students for STEM careers.

“These grants will support freshwater literacy programs and provide students with access to real-world STEM experiences,” the governor said in a statement. “Our Great Lakes are our greatest asset, and we need to empower young people in Michigan to learn more about them and continue to advance conservation efforts. Michigan’s economic competitiveness depends on a STEM-skilled workforce committed to solving our greatest challenges. Investments like these will help prepare our children to lead our state into the future.

Governor Whitmer’s office created the grant funding in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), continuing the 2020 From Students to Stewards initiative and 2021 MiSTEM Transformative Playbook Grants.

“This ongoing partnership between EGLE and LEO supports students and educators with new and innovative approaches to STEM education to help fill our state’s talent gap and prepare our students for in-demand career paths in the STEM fields and beyond,” LEO Director Susan Corbin said in a statement.

EGLE Director Liesl Clark called the funding an investment in Michigan’s future leadership.

“These innovative educational programs and experiences will shape tomorrow’s advocates, policymakers, and champions who will value and protect Michigan’s waterways and watersheds,” Clark said in a statement.

The Alcona Project is also supported by Michigan Sea Grant through the CGLL Teacher Mentorship Program and NOAA, with financial support from GLRI, the Local Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative of Northeast Michigan, and of the state MiSTEM network.

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