The SEMIS Coalition facilitates school-community partnerships to develop students as citizen-stewards of healthy ecological-social systems. — SEMIS Mission Statement

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Essential Question:
What is our responsibility to each other and the land?


Principal: Wayne Millette

About AALC
The Ann Arbor Learning Community (AALC) is a non-profit public charter school authorized by Eastern Michigan University. AALC currently houses five early primary (K-1) classrooms, four primary (2-3) classrooms, three intermediate (4-5) classrooms, and three middle school (6-8) classrooms.
Teacher Team: Stacey Downer, Mary Magos, Tracey Marchyok, Tammy King, Kristen Kreiner, Marissa Kowalczuk, Wendy Nagle, and Drake Meadow.

Stewardship Projects

Click on the project titles to read more and see related media & resources!
Click here to view SEMIS Project Portfolios!


Annie's Big Nature Lesson

We are excited to say that for the first time ever in Southeast Michigan, a school will take part in Annie’s Big Nature Lesson. That school is Ann Arbor Learning Community, and the Community Partner making it happen is the Leslie Science and Nature Center.

Annie’s Big Nature Lesson is a week long program where students come on site and have school at the Science Center. There will be two lessons each day, one led by me and one led by Tracy [Marchyok, AALC Teacher], followed by lunch, followed by an hour of outdoor observation where students are expected to observe, take notes, and journal.
- Stefan Sumko, Leslie Science & Nature Center

This is not your average field trip! Stefan goes on to say:

We are pioneering this at LSNC because of Tracy’s interest in this work. It has never been done before at the Science Center; it was actually developed in Lansing.

Named after environmental educator, Annie Mason, who devoted her life to teaching the public about environmental responsibility and stewardship of the earth,

the mission of Annie’s BIG Nature Lesson is to immerse children, teachers, and parents in the beauty and wonder of the natural world; to engage them in authentic scientific investigations by observing the local ecology, drawing and writing; to nurture citizens who value and protect natural resources; and to build a school-community partnership that inspires responsible environmental stewardship.

Stay tuned for media & resources from the first ever, Annie’s Big Nature Lesson in Southeast Michigan!

Bats Need Houses, too!

While learning about the habitats and roles of bats in Michigan ecosystems, Mrs. Magos’ and Mrs. Nagle’s 2nd & 3rd grade students learned that humans activities are destroying bat’s natural habitat. The students and teachers felt they needed to do something about the problem. The first step was to create some places where bats can live without the threat of loosing their homes.

“My students wrote letters to many local area business and people who they thought might be willing to hang a bat house. In these letters, they tried to teach the recipients all that they had learned about bats, and why they are of value to us and our area. Many of my class’ bat houses have been hung: at a Preschool, an orchard, a farm, homes, etc. One is scheduled to be hung at University of Michigan in the Spring.” - Teacher, Wendy Nagle

The bat houses have also been hung in the homes of parents who volunteered to help the students construct the bat houses as well as the Subaru offices neighboring the school.

You can view a 4-minute short film about the construction and installation of the AALC Bat House Project!

The Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden at Ann Arbor Learning community was started as an enrichment program, where Mrs. Magos and 16 students designed the garden, prepared the ground and planted the flowers.

This garden was tended and extended by other enrichment classes and later adopted as the Early Primary’s Garden. It then needed to be expanded to support all five Early Primary classes. Over the summer of 2010 we enclosed the original garden, built and lightly planted five new beds and re-purposed donated fencing by cutting it to half height and using both halves to protect the garden from playground activities. We had 20 volunteers from AALC including 2 families that were enrolled in the next year but new to our school.

This was phase one, phase two will be this year as we fully plant all the beds, add paths, finish fencing, and add a reused tire border. This project touches the lives and learning of 80-120 students a year in Early Primary, construction also includes middle school students, and the garden is used as a teaching tool in life science for all the students k-8 which at the moment number 270.
- Teacher, Tammy King

Eco Arts Class: Dream Seeding for a Sustainable Future

Arts teacher, Marissa Kowalczuk has been working with middle school students in a special Eco Arts class to explore the concepts of anthropocentrism and identity through art that employs recycled or sustainable materials. Ms. K is engaging her students in the processes of problem-solving, inquiry, and creation as they consider what responsibility to each other and the land means.

Students will submit artwork to the Dream Seeding Art Show in March. The goal of the event is to feature:

art from folks of any age or skill level, in any medium, that, in any way imaginable, helps us to see that a more peaceful, just and ecologically healthy world is possible.
Michigan Peaceworks, Event Co-Sponsor

The event will take place in March 2011 in the Michigan Union in Ann Arbor and is 4th in a series of Dream Seeding art shows. Marissa has posed a water stewardship theme to her students:

I know that my students are going to be doing a “Message in a Bottle” piece to be a springboard for our water study. I will throw out the seeds and see what into.

Student artwork will also be displayed at the SEMIS Community Forum in May at the Environmental Interpretative Center in Dearborn.

Mallet's Creek Project

“Once a week you will see most of my students changing into tall rain boots, water shoes, and clothes they don’t mind getting wet. Many of them bring a change of clothes to school that day. Almost all of them bring extra socks. Some students have begun bringing their own binoculars, measuring sticks and cameras. One student purchased a pair of waders so that he can keep his feet and pants dry. They have all the necessary equipment, and I never asked them to purchase a thing. Over time, as I understand, parents were emailing each other and talking in the hallway. They were asking for advice about rain boots, because their kids really wanted to fully engage with our process.” - Teacher, Tracey Marchyok

Related Media & Resources: Mallet’s Creek Project Portfolio

The Truth about Water Newsletter

Students at Ann Arbor Learning Community have begun a “Water Conservancy Crew” consisting of students from various grades. The group has published and distributed their first “Truth about Water” newsletter. Click below to view the student-generated publication:

Download Student Work: The Truth about WATER
Stay Tuned: We look forward to more from the AALC Water Conservancy Crew!
Where Does the Water Go?

SEMIS students and teachers at AALC have been mapping their community and exploring the school grounds. As part of the Interdisciplinary Water Stewardship Projects, they have been thinking more and more about water use. Teacher, Mary Magos described a line of inquiry students drew from this exploration:

Students noticed that the roof of the school is flat, but the water from rain and snow seems to go somewhere… so we are wondering, where does it all go? How does it affect our local ecosystem and what does it mean for us as citizen stewards of our local land base?

Because of students’ interest in the water on and surrounding the school site, The AALC Teacher Team and their community partners, the Ecology Center and the Leslie Science and Nature Center, have begun to plan lessons integrating the investigation of where water goes and how they can collect some of it for use in their garden projects at the school. At a recent Professional Development Day, the teacher team was inspired by the idea of a rain sculpture, such as the one depicted below, located at Hannan House in Detroit. Future plans include designing and building a rain sculpture and other rain barrels to assist in responsible water use in the garden projects. Stay tuned for updates!


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