The Green Team gains STEAM at DIT-CODY

With the support of the community and their teachers, students at DIT-CODY are taking the lead in developing STEAM-based solutions to pressing Detroit Public School sustainability needs, like energy, insulation, recycling, and creating green space. Most recently the student “Green Team” created two garden sites, including an outdoor classroom, which involved interviewing and presenting to the community, surveying and measuring, and community mapping. Read DIT-CODY’s story, below.

Teacher Team/Teacher Affiliate:  Chad Segrist, Lead Teacher/STEaM Coordinator

Community issue or need addressed:

Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody (DIT Cody) is a long-term SEMIS school, participating since 2010. Their work began with a community mapping project with Ramona Gligor that evolved into a summer energy efficiency program with EcoWorks, which operates the Detroit Youth Energy Squad (D-YES). This project included home energy consultations and energy efficient installations, and EcoWorks became a strong community partner, with students winterizing over a 1,000 homes in Detroit. From this foundation, in 2013-2014, EcoWorks continued to work with DIT Cody and a new teacher Chad Segrist through a student led-initiative called the “Green Team.” Detroit Public Schools started a Green Team Challenge initiative to improve sustainable infrastructure among participating schools, while reducing costs for energy, water, etc. This year, the DIT Green Team projects included two garden sites, including an outdoor classroom, working with DPS and AmeriCorps coordinators with Detroit Youth Energy Squad. 

The Green Team challenge resulted in the DIT Youth Ambassadors Program as a mechanism for leadership development and youth participation. The Cody Youth Ambassadors (CYA) are the community’s voice for deepening the educational integration and development process through advocacy and peer education initiatives. Membership in CYA currently stands at 38 students who were selected by students, teachers and administrators. Membership is extended to local feeder schools and an outreach plan is evolving. This allows children of all ages to be involved and work with their peers in the garden project.

Project implementation included a spring clean-up day, preparation of garden areas, preparing a site plan, reaching out to the community to get input on the garden project and volunteer recruitment to maintain the garden site. Youth ambassadors supported local youth involvement in this process. Students took their learning out into the greater community, supporting a tree-planting project at Belle Isle with the DNR Urban Forestry Program.

To secure a sustainable future for the Gardens, the CYA has a regular community open house that is growing in numbers. This allows the discussion to continue with all of the stakeholders– D-YES, Greening of Detroit, Whole Foods, and Lowes.  The April Spring Thing Open House showcased the gardens, greenhouse, outdoor classroom, and reforestation projects.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) disciplines are another major focus of the sustainability projects at DIT Cody. Students participate in projects such as “Capture the Wind,” where they are challenged to develop a device that transforms wind energy into electrical energy, and a project titled “Cabin Insulation,” where students design, construct and evaluate an insulating panel from recycled materials.

SEMIS Connections:

  • Earth Force curriculum to guide civic engagement process in the garden project.
  • EcoWorks partnership, staff support and expertise in designing and developing the gardens.

Resources used from outside sources:

  • DPS funding and support for the Green Team projects
  • Lowe’s donated materials and volunteers
  • Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program

Community Partners:

  • Detroit Public Schools support the Go Green Challenge, and develop press releases and newsletters about their school’s sustainability progress
  • EcoWorks employs Americorps members to support school-based sustainability projects, such as landscape architecture students working with the school garden project.
  • The Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program:  Urban Forest Stewardship Project involves two field trips to Belle Isle to implement a forestry stewardship project as well as planning and creating a schoolyard habitat involving trees.
  • Lowes provided construction materials and volunteers for the school garden implementation day.
  • Whole Foods and Greening of Detroit  also contributed support for these projects

Other teachers/school staff involved in PBE at the school:

  • Chad Seegrist spearheaded the ‘green team’ including 4-5 teachers with differing roles and levels of input and time. Ramona Gligor was a key organizer of the work at DIT Cody with SEMIS, but is no longer working with the school. With SEMIS for many years, she transformed her practice to be very student centered and pioneered students presentations at the GLSI Place-Based Education Conference, with her work featured in the Spencer Grant and the GLSI documentary (

Outcomes for Students’ Learning:

May 17 was “Re-creation Day” and DIT Cody, with 4 to 5 community partners that used mentorship programming to come in and work with students on kicking off their garden project.  Partners and the Green Team met on weekly basis, and students developed Re-creation Day, developing service activities, such as building handicapped raised beds.  Volunteers installed an outdoor classroom for events that can take place outside, like outdoor theatre performances.  The gardens included spiral and haystack gardens, 15 trees were planted in connection with the forestry service, discarded tires were recycled, painted and used as a border and planters.  Some rain barrels and water conservation efforts are taking place on site as well.  Some of the core competencies gained by students in these projects included:  engineering and design of greenhouse and school garden; biology concepts taught through seed propagation and tracking; developing technology with basic tools; pedagogy in thermal resistance and energy conservation; and mathematics, with equation manipulation, graphing, linear and non-linear relationships.

Outcomes for Educator Learning:

DIT Cody has been engaged in two tracks of SEMIS training. They began partnering with SEMIS through Great Lakes monitoring training starting at the 2013 Summer Institute, and continued throughout 2014 with the support of Earth Force curriculum and training in conjunction with SEMIS staff coaching.  The result was a long-term partnership with Detroit Youth Energy Squad (D-YES), the DIT Cody Green Team and the community and school gardens.  Their far reaching goals are within the Rouge watershed, using NOAA educational resources around water quality surveys, identify areas of concern, identifying regional solutions with the support of a water and energy affinity group to help alleviate those concerns beyond their school grounds.

Powerful Place-Based Educator Characteristics:

  • Finding and inviting experts and community members into your classroom 
  • Using an inquiry approach
  • Creating lessons and projects that provide for student voice and student driven inqiury  
  • Helping students to identify and choose the community issues they want to address 
  • Visioning the future to discuss and debate, “What should our community be?”
  • Understanding and teaching science concepts  
  • Visioning the future to discuss and debate, “What should our community be?”
  • Putting students in the position of “teacher” (e.g., during Community Forum, PBE conference, Summer Institute, presentations to their community)

Methods for data collection

  • Community interviews about community garden concept
  • Surveying school site and taking measurements for garden design
  • Community mapping in relation the school’s place within the Rouge River watershed.  Future data collection:  water quality surveys, trips to the river, identifying areas of concern and what DIT-CODY can do to help alleviate those concerns.

Assessment measures

  • Powerpoint presentations and informational brochures

Interdisciplinary tie-ins

  • Social studies and English competencies include interviewing techniques, brochure writing, powerpoint presentation and community organizing skills
  • The Foreign Language Immersion & Cultural Studies (FLICS) class supported the Dumpster Decoration Project for the DPS Go Green Challenge with a design of a rising phoenix encircled in recycling arrows along with the various foreign languages that the team speaks.


S.IA.04.12 /S.IA.05.12 Share ideas and evaluate data and claims about science through purposeful conversation in collaborative groups.

S.IA.04.13/S.IA.05.13 Communicate and present findings of observations and investigations using evidence.

S.RS.04.18/S.RS. 05.17 Describe the effect humans and other organisms have on the balance of the natural world.


4 – P4.2.1/5- P4.2.1 Develop and implement an action plan and know how, when, and where to address or inform others about a public issue.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are

appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


4-PS3-2.Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

4-ESS3-1.  Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment