Duane DeVries

ERMS magnet leading Rockford into greener days

February 24, 2011 // 0 Comments

Environmentally friendly education leaves the schoolroom by BETH ALTENA They learn about everything with a nature in mind. The East Rockford Middle School (ERMS) Earthkeepers magnet includes sixth- and seventh-grade students who, between them, not only cover the different areas of traditional curriculum with nature-themed studies, but are also literally changing the landscape around them. The Earthkeepers convinced Principal Mike Ramm to propose a community garden on school property, a plan which dovetails nicely with similar plans underway at the Rockford Administrative Building property in downtown Rockford (see related story, page 1). They hope to further involve the public in promoting environmentally friendly practice with the use of rain barrels and hope to ask the City of Rockford to jump on board as well. Along with the members of the Izaak Walton League, the school is working with Groundswell, a coalition of community partners with a goal of hands-on environmental learning. The class was visited late in 2010 in preparation for spring of 2011, when they hope to be prepared to present the public with rain barrels as a fundraiser but mostly to promote environmentally friendly use of rainfall. “Any time you can create excitement by making curriculum come to life and even branch out into the community, you can see the students’ passion and enthusiasm. They know they are making a difference,” said Ramm. Ramm said the kids are divided into magnets at ERMS according to their own interests. Earthkeepers is just one of several, and creates an interesting dynamic. Teacher Linda Spencer points out that the environmental nature of the magnet draws the students who like outdoor activities such as hunting as well as nature-lovers who want to save the rainforests and whales and don’t understand hunters at all. Among the projects students undertake as they learn core curriculum studies—such as math, science, social studies, language and technology—are building rain barrels and planting gardens. Rain barrels are a project that is ideal for many reasons, but especially suited to school groups. According to Georgia Donovan, local Izaak Walton League president, rain barrels can be made cheaply and by pretty much anyone. Along with past president and board member Duane DeVries, Donovan walked the students through the creation and use of rain barrels. “You […]

Winterfest celebrates Michigan’s outdoors

December 30, 2010 // 0 Comments

Public invited for a day of family fun The Izaak Walton League of America (the “Ikes”) has had another busy year with many activities at the local Dwight Lydell chapter. The nonprofit conservation club has stayed active in environmental issues at the state and local levels, following their interests in water quality, energy, fishing, hunting, and their love of nature. Some of their members also participate in other groups concerned with Great Lakes fisheries, Asian carp, and the Rogue River watershed. With the Ikes you can be as involved as you want to be, from simply attending dinners, to volunteering, to activist. This past year, 2010, started with an annual event that is just around the corner again: Winterfest! Last year’s was a lot of fun, with ice-fishing and skating at their pond, archery, making candles over an outdoor fire, cross-country skiing, snow castles, and exploring the beauty of nature in the wintertime, plus a free lunch. On Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, the Ikes will open their gate to the public again, at 5641 Myers Lake Rd., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Ikes hold many events that spread their message to the public. Each year they give two $1,000 scholarships to area seniors pursuing careers in an environmental field. A Conservationist of the Year award is given every year at their annual fundraising banquet. An interesting speaker is found, and many great items are collected for a silent auction, which is their main fundraiser for the year. This year’s banquet will be in March, with a program about salmon in Lake Michigan. Fishing is dear to the heart of the group, and they have many days devoted to getting children involved. Every Saturday morning in May they open their pond, supplying gear, bait and advice to those who want to give it a try. On Wednesday evenings from mid-June to mid-July, volunteers bring fishing equipment to the dock at Versluis Lake, helping any kids that meet them there. During the spring and fall, Ikes president Georgia Donovan and vice president Barb McGuirl have an after-school “Kids’ Nature Club,” where kids play and explore outdoors in an unstructured way. The idea is to allow them to feel at home in nature, become familiar with […]