At New Branches Charter Academy students are passionate about taking care of their environment and helping their community, all while learning about some of the most significant environmental issues currently facing our planet.
Leading the way to build an engaging and hands-on environmental science curriculum is Kate Hasenbank. Mrs. Hasenbank is New Branches’ Environmental Science Specialist and has been blazing new trails since she joined the school in January 2017. She has secured new grants and the Michigan Evergreen School designation to help distinguish New Branches Charter Academy as an environmentally-focused school promoting environmental education, stewardship, and the educational benefits of student connections to nature.
A large part of Mrs. Hasenbank’s environmental science teaching takes place outdoors and in all seasons. She engages students in hands-on exploration and discovery around New Branches’ 12-acre campus.
Mrs. Hasenbank cites author Richard Louv as a guiding influence in her teaching. “Richard Louv brought national attention to the growing trend of children spending more and more time cooped up indoors with their electronic devices instead of getting outside to engage in childhood play and to connect with their natural environment,” Hasenbank explained. “Louv coined the phrase ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ to describe the negative impact being disconnected from nature can have on a child’s physical and emotional health and development.”
Through her environmental science class, Mrs. Hasenbank helps provide healthy outdoor educational experiences that have the power of making positive lasting impressions with students. It helps them to understand and value their natural environment.
It is hard work to create an environmentally-focused curriculum and oftentimes needs the assistance of other economic and community resources and programs to make it happen.
Mrs. Hasenbank has been working tirelessly to make this happen at New Branches by applying for grants, working with essential community partners like MI Groundswell, attending conferences and workshops, and collaborating with passionate environmental educators from other schools. Hasenbank noted that the success of New Branches becoming an environmentally-focused school has been a team effort; it wouldn’t be possible without the support of Principal Terry Larkin, teachers and support staff all working to promote the school’s vision of being a green school.
“I want the students at New Branches to understand the importance that they have in their world and environment. They are integral parts of helping to make this world a more sustainable and just society; they are our future decision-makers” Hasenbank said.
“If I can find the money for innovative and creative ways for kids to learn at New Branches, I will do everything in my power to make it happen,” Hasenbank added.
Below is a list of the various grants and initiatives that Hasenbank has applied for and been awarded to support environmental education at New Branches in the last three years since she was hired. It is a remarkable list and something to recognize and celebrate!
- MI Groundswell Grant Spring 2017- $1500 for Creation of Native Butterfly Garden, students worked with Plaster Creek Stewards to plant native nectar and host species.
- MI Groundswell Grant Spring 2018 – $1000 for Creation of School Edible Garden with 16 garden beds, tools, supplies.
- MI Groundswell Grant Spring 2019 – $1000 for Native Plant Landscaping along the front of the school building
- Target Field Trip Grant 2018 – $750 for transportation and admission to Mac Wood’s Dune Rides in Mears, MI for 6th grade class to learn about sand dune ecology on a guided ride
- Pets in the Classroom Grant 2018 – ($200 value) Purchase of start-up tank and supplies and half-off discount for bearded dragon lizard for environmental science classroom.
- Michigan Association of Environmental Professionals (MAEP) 2018-2019 school year –$1500 for 15 pair of waders & 4 aquatic sampling nets. Students will learn about their local watershed and take various measurements and samples in Plaster Creek to learn about and determine water quality.
- Michigan Alliance of Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) 2019 – $500 for 14 pairs of binoculars, 14 bird guides, Backyard Birds educational poster, and 3 bird whistles to supplement Bird Detectives activity for the October 2019 Family Night event and future events
- Michigan Emerald School Environmental Stewardship Designation 2017 (awarded by Kent County, Emerald is 2nd highest designation)
- Michigan Evergreen School Environmental Stewardship Designation 2018 (awarded by Kent County, Evergreen is top designation!)
- Michigan Evergreen School Environmental Stewardship Designation 2019 (awarded by Kent County, Evergreen is top designation!)
Other: Title IV Grant to support environmental education, managed by Kate Hasenbank
- 2017-18: Pavilion structure for outdoor classroom area in the school garden
- 2018-2019: Recycled plastic picnic tables (4) from Polly Products, a Michigan company, for outdoor classroom seating under pavilion, recycled plastic dual trash/recycling bin from Polly Products for garden, 2 Tower Garden aeroponic units to grow produce inside year-round, various garden tools and supplies
- 2019-2020: Continuation of native plant landscaping project along the front of the school building
We are grateful for Mrs. Hasenbank and her on-going work and cannot wait to see what is next as New Branches Charter Academy continues to distinguish itself as an environmentally-focused school.