Metroparks, DPSCD Address Educational Equity in SE Michigan for Detroit Students

Photo: Getty Images


The area Metroparks have partnered with Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) to offer interactive recreational and environmental learning programs to underserved students in Detroit to help address educational equity in southeast Michigan.

Last spring, the Metroparks and DPSCD hosted nearly 1,000 middle school and high school students from 21 Detroit public schools for a combined physical and educational experience.

Through the partnership, DPSCD students participated in 32 field trips to Oakwoods, Willow, Lake Erie, Stony Creek and Lake St. Clair Metroparks, where students engaged in traditional but new experiences like biking, foot golf, pickleball, shuffleboard and volleyball. Students also hiked with a Metroparks interpreter who provided environmental education along the way.

“I can’t wait to tell my mom I biked six miles around this lake! I need to bring her here,” shared one student, who didn’t want to leave the park without a map to bring home and show off what she accomplished. “It’s essential for our students to get outside and spend time with Michigan’s beautiful natural resources,” said Metroparks Director Amy McMillan. “We have 25,000 acres of nature’s classroom at our fingertips here in the Metroparks that serve as great learning tools for students, and our goal is to make sure every student in southeast Michigan has equitable access to that space to help them learn and love the outdoors.”

Research indicates that spending time outdoors can help students de-stress and unwind from the pressures of both school and home life and is a critical factor in building self-esteem. A North Carolina University study showed that time outdoors appeared to impact African-American and Hispanic students more than Caucasian students, improving minority students’ ecological knowledge and cognitive skills, two measures of environmental literacy

“We are interested in whether outdoor experiences can be part of a catch-up strategy that can help in narrowing the environmental literacy gap for minority students,” said the studies lead author Kathryn Stevenson, an NC State graduate student who teaches outdoor education.

The DPSCD physical education partnership will continue annually with seasonal recreational field trips, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as weather allows, to offer diverse experiences for students to enjoy.

Metroparks and DPSCD have also joined forces to provide supplemental science lessons to over 400 4th, 5th, and 8th-grade public school students in Detroit this October. The program is being launched this fall as a creative solution to supplement what passionate teachers are already doing and addressing education gaps for underserved communities.

“What makes these programs so impactful is that students are given the opportunity to lead through their own investigative interests,” said Jennifer Jaworski, Metroparks Chief of Interpretive Services. “And it’s this type of first-hand learning that helps students retain information and be more intentional when engaging with our natural environment.”

Students participate in interactive educational activities outdoors where they observe wildlife and learn about native trees, plants and vegetation around their own school yard. Science lessons are being offered twice a week throughout the entire school year to all 4th, 5th and 8th grade students at John R King Academic and Performing Arts Academy in Detroit. 

John R King Academic and Performing Arts Academy serves 784 students in grades prekindergarten to 8th grade. The school placed in the bottom 50 percent of all schools in Michigan for overall test scores. The percentage of students achieving proficiency in math is 5 percent, which is lower than the Michigan state average of 40 percent.  The percentage of students achieving proficiency in reading/language arts is 12 percent which is lower than the Michigan state average of 49 percent.

Metroparks staff will work with 2nd and 3rd-grade teachers at the academy to inspire lesson plans that include engaging outdoor learning, and to schedule interactive outdoor field trips at the Metroparks later in the school year. In total, this will supplement and expand student learning across five grade levels at John R King Academic and Performing Arts Academy. All Metroparks educational programs are designed to align with the National Guidelines for Science Standards and Michigan Science Standards, and the goal is to deepen students’ understanding of science and the world around them.

The Metroparks also supports students through free field trips and a scholarship program for underserved students.

Free experiential field trips to public schools in select townships of Clair County, Lapeer County, Macomb County and Oakland County are funded through a grant from the Four County Community Foundation (4CCF).

Field trips include free transportation to Stony Creek or Wolcott Mill Metroparks for hands-on activities related to agriculture, history, nature and science. The program will run through the 2022-2023 school year.

The Get Out and Learn Scholarship program funded by the Metroparks offers free field trips or in-school programs for underserved schools in Southeast Michigan schools to any of the Metropark Interpretive Centers, including transportation and programming
fees. Schools must have at least 50 percent of students eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program to qualify for the program.

Teachers can learn more or apply by visiting

About Post Author

From the Web

Skip to content