Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Success in the Forest- Uof M Design school meets Madagascar 2010

EcoExplorers Madagascar 2010 from Shannon Kohlitz on Vimeo.

Dear Friends, Family, and Supporters

We wanted to reconnect with all of you. Our apologies for being out of touch for some time now. Things have been busy in the hot forest and cool village, and internet is quite unreliable here in Southwest Madagascar.

In the past two months, we’ve hosted a large group of University of Michigan students from the Schools of Art and Design and Natural Resources and Environment http://vimeo.com/14349267, constructed our forest research station, and continued reforestation trials in the nurseries.

This past week was a big one. Along with the World Wildlife Fund Madagascar, national, regional, and local forest officials and members of the press, visited our site to check out our operations.

With chameleons, birds and baobabs bas-relief sculptures on the walls of the research station (thanks to the hard work of the art students) (http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/mad.hoavy/EcoExplorers?authkey=Gv1sRgCPPonbnmw5mtzgE#), Ho Avy’s Malagasy staff played a key role in gaining the official recognition of our rights to the land where we’ve built the research station.

Another agreement was signed permitting Ho avy and the village association we collaborate with to create a forest reserve. This reserve will be a no-exploitation forest and will be at least 500 hectares (more then 1000 acres). This achievement is the first of its kind in SW Madagascar, and has been in the works for over two years. With your support, big things are happening here.

Today we are holding a fundraising drive to fund the creation of a community center in our village Ranobe. It will be a place for engaging in education, livelihood and health interventions on a larger scale in the village.

Please see this link http://goto.gg/6270 for a complete description of the community center’s activities. It is incumbent that we get 50 donations to continue fundraising from Global Giving, so even a donation of ten dollars would make a big difference. Please pass on this link to your networks and friends.

We have about three weeks to complete the fund drive. And with your help this community center will help facilitate local activities and multinational collaborations to reduce deforestation in one of the world’s most threatened, unique, and biodiverse forests.

Please see the link below for the latest and most up to date Ho Avy happenings.

Thank you all very much,

Anthony Arnold for Ho Avy

Anthony Arnold


'Today’s most vital steps in conservation are mapping biodiversity, identifying priority areas, restoration, and making conservation profitable',
from The Future of Life, E. O. Wilson

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education

Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education [Speaking of Faith® from American Public Media]

November 19, 2009
What Adele Diamond is learning about the brain challenges basic assumptions in modern education. Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization and reflection. What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our minds.
I listened to Adele Diamond's interview and you can too. There is a podcast on the link posted above. Adele is a Nuero scientist whose studies confirm the absolute necessity of maintaining a Wholistic learning/living environment to engage and maintain a child's cognitive development.
As we know, the nourished Mind and Spirit are inseperable and along with a nourished body will allow for all children to grow into responsible creative individuals who are capable of solving the challenges facing them and life on this planet.
I would challenge you to listen to the podcast and comment on how we can get together to create and expand the kinds of learning communities that would foster these opportunities for all children.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Student scientists create biodiesel from soybean oil

A group of students from a charity science program is developing its own biodiesel fuel from soybean oil.
Biodiesel consists of mono alkyl esters produced from vegetable oils, animal or old cooking fats.
Soy biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification whereby the glycerin is separated from the soybean oil. The process gives two products: methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (used to make soap). The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and soot.
A group of Ecotek student scientists -- Chris Anderson, Keith Young, Jr. and Emmanuel Thomas Jefferson -- were so interested in the topic that they decided to make their own biodiesel from soybean oil.
They followed a stringent manufacturing and quality control process, such as breaking down the triglycerides in the oil and running combustion, chromatography, and viscosity tests on the methyl ester.
The knowledge that the team gathered from their work in the lab will help them when they travel to the United Nations in New York City to meet with world leaders to discuss the viability of biofuel on behalf of Chad. It will also help them when they share their research with attendees at the Michigan AgriEnergy Conference.
Officials say the team is also working on plans to convert switchgrass, algae and other cellulose based material to biofuel.
Ecotek is a program within the Motor City Model UN Club, a 501c3 organization. It is provides students ages 10 to 17 with the opportunity to work on science projects to help them better understand the role that science plays in policy making within international organizations such as the United Nations.
The students work on a diverse set of projects ranging from combating AIDS to protecting the environment. Once they have reviewed the UN treaties and have completed their lab research, the students meet with world leaders at the UN to share what they have learned.
To learn more about the program and the students highlighted in this press release, contact Keith Young at (313) 399-7893 or email him at keiyoung@ecotek-us.com
The students will show off their work to the public on Friday, March 6 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Ecotek Laboratories, located inside TechTown at 440 Burroughs St., Suite 511 in Detroit.
Note: For information on how you can sponsor content in the Blue Box, contact Jeff Lasser at (248) 455-7319 or jeff.lasser@cbsradio.com

Monday, March 2, 2009

A way to see and think about change in Madagascar

Think of Madagascar, it’s an Eden of rare life found no where else on Earth. Imagine yourself deep in the southern corner of the island with its magnificent coral reefs, geckos, chameleons, birds, lemurs and trees in the spiny baobab forest. Your family also lives here and is one of the 17 million Malagasy people living on less then 1$ per day. You live in a small isolated village, fishing or growing rice, corn, manioc, papaya and melons in the hot and very dry climate. Life is a struggle for survival and what you grow is just barely enough to feed yourself. Your only source of income is derived from selling fish, growing corn, or harvesting the trees you cut from the forest to produce charcoal. Your local natural resources are the only thing that keeps you and your family alive.

Given that this is the way your grandfathers lived and the isolation you experience, it is impossible for you or anyone in your community to imagine how life could be different; yet you still find a way to remain happy and optimistic, open to the world around you and any new opportunities that arise.

The real underlying problems are out of your hands, you are clueless and essentially helpless against global external pressures that dictate local markets which directly affect your community. You understand from the elders in the village that the fields are not as productive as they once were, rains come less often, it is hotter for longer portions of the year and the corals are dying. What you are ignorant of is the discrepancy in income you receive for the octopuses that you and your brothers harvested out of the sea, versus what people in Beijing are paying for them. Or that your greatest asset, the forest, is being cleared faster then anywhere else on Madagascar, just to be turned into corn that is fed to pigs on the touristy island of Mauritius. You have no idea what the price of charcoal is in the capital yet you still wake up every morning before dawn to work the entire day out in forest for one bowl of rice per day.

You are definitely unaware and could not possibly imagine the magnitude of the consequences of what it means that your forest is earmarked by multinational mining corporations. You have never seen a picture of an entire forest cleared, and it is unfathomable that a single machine could drain all the precious ground water out from under your feet. Yes this could happen and already is in other parts of Madagascar, just so the sands under the forest that your ancestors have lived off of for thousands of years, can be mined out and turned into LCD screens and whitening agents for linens and plastics, destined for China and North America. The saddest part is that you can’t stop it, because you have no education about these things and you don’t have other opportunities to do anything else so you don’t think about it.

As a result, you go about life as it is and keep harvesting your resources, and so do your neighbors and their growing families. Your entire community has a tremendous knowledge about the forest and its medicinal values. Your happiness and pride is derived from these natural connections to the land and sea. But you keep hearing from the elders, that the rising temperature and shorter rainy season is exacerbating the struggle for survival. No one really foresees that the local resources are very limited when continuously depleted and that they need thoughtful attention to be conserved and restored for future generations. These pressures have never existed before and no one has any new information about how to reverse unsustainable cycles, hence the need for intervention.

Inspired by the examples set by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/ - New Latitude is implementing a similar approach to fundamentally empower the next generation. New Latitude will use existing resources and grow surplus vegetables, intercropped with thousands of locally propagated trees. To ensure the long-term viability of the project New Latitude will working with locals to create sustainable fair-trade livelihoods aimed at restoring and protecting natural environment for future generations.

New Latitude will mobilize participatory community initiatives by building local capacity and leadership to equip communities with new skills. This will be accomplished by introducing a program which offers tangible benefits through improving existing livelihoods schemes, self-motivated life-long learning opportunities, resulting in beneficial conservation alternatives for future sustainability of natural resources and biodiversity.
What been done
A feasibility analysis in the pilot phase of New Latitudes operations in SW Madagascar has determined that improvements to agro-ecological systems are emphatically supported by communities. By generating new economical alternatives and increasing food security from very basic improvements to food production methods (i.e. Composting) greatly reduced local resource over-exploitation. An example training center consisting of an efficient perma-culture garden with improved soil quality, no-till planting and drip irrigation system intercropped into a native and fruit nursery has been developed and will be expanded as an exemplary regional reforestation and livelihood improvement model.
Working together to be innovative
Sustainable opportunities, education and enterprise (offered via project hoavy) are far more appealing to rural communities then only being able to make a living from harvesting charcoal, being a farmer or a fishermen. Exchanging ideas is the next step to expand existing information networks and develop a training center consisting of a primary school and Spiny Forest research facility. We will recruit local leaders, i.e., villagers, University’s and professionals who will replicate this model and provide training and implementation in neighbor communities. Through this model, our project will propagate the exchange of information between communities and the establishment of further projects determined by the local community advisory committees.
Frequent workshops will be held and a local radio broadcasting program will facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge and facilitate on-going recruitment of new members for community restoration and monitoring projects. Further training will be provided for eventual outlets to sustainable eco-tourism.

We anticipate that 80% of the population will be involved and will participate in the improved agro ecological scheme, e.g., nurseries, permaculture and native tree propagation and 40% will become successful local entrepreneurs by selling excess food in markets, educators, researchers and tour guides, improving their income by 60% in just 2 years. We expect to reach up to 10,000 local people of all ages and raise awareness about how global environmental issues affect SW Madagascar and how local people can develop resilient proactive ways to ensure self-sustainability. This will be successfully accomplished by creating community associations and organizations, that will be financially independed in the long-run through government, micro-finance and international funding sources.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

This should show it all......

This is the logo for New Latitude our emerging non-profit* committed to mobilizing initiatives that actively promote community projects benefiting both people and the environment. This organization has hatched out of the grassroots project hoavy, which is based in Madagascar, where we are creating environmental and educational incentives to empower rural people and protect extremely rare and endangered biodiversity. New Latitude is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and we are pioneering a sister project here to promote community energy and food independence in the Midwest, through environmental advocacy based on safeguarding the Great Lakes. In the near future we hope to develop and incorporate a distance leaning portal linking Madagascar to Michigan. Both projects are in their 'seedling stages' so ideas, links or comments of how to build them up and connect these remarkable people and places is of course always welcome. Our website will be up very soon and we are already excepting tax exempt donations at http://ihcenter.org/groups/newlatitude.html so please spread the word.
*New Latitude- receives its tax exempt status as a project of the International Humanities Center- ihcenter.org

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I would recommend anyone interested in expanding their awareness of other people who are also creating real demonstrable positive differences in this world to visit www.yesmagazine.org.
May we all learn how to communicate and work together in succinct ways to add chapters, no volumes to the wonderfully objective, yet generally pragmatic pages in this interactively generative magazine.
One of the articles that really moved me is in the current Winter 2009 issue on page 51 "No foreclosures here" it is about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative
(DSNI). These good people have created a sense of place that has created immense social value which in turn created stability, jobs, educational opportunities and other societal growth in ways yet to be discovered. By far the most dynamic creating community action I have read of to date. A model we could emulate right here and now in Pontiac, Detroit, Benton Harbor.... Well globally actually. But begin somewhere, locally is a good start!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Accio Energy Wins NSF Grant to Develop Game Changing Wind Energy Technology
ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Accio Energy, Inc. received a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The amount of the grant is $97,800. The NSF grant will fund development of product prototypes and a computer model that predicts their efficiency.
Accio Energy is a seed stage company in Ann Arbor, MI developing a new wind energy technology. Accio's product is unique; incorporating a turbine- free approach that converts wind energy to electricity without moving parts. The SBIR grant will fund work leading to a commercial proof-of-concept demonstration. "We're excited that the National Science Foundation's highly competitive and technically rigorous peer review process resulted in funding for our approach to wind energy conversion. The prestigious award is recognition of the value of our aerovoltaic technology," said Dr. Dawn White, President of Accio Energy.
About Accio Energy, Inc.
Accio Energy, Inc. is developing aerovoltaic systems that directly convert wind energy to electricity without the need for blades or a turbine. No moving parts and no noise: A new direction in wind energy. Much as photovoltaic technology revolutionized the solar energy market, aerovoltaic technology will provide a direct and scalable electricity source from an abundant free natural resource. Target installations are commercial, government, and utility facilities. Accio Energy is testing prototype test hardware and expects to launch products in late 2010. To learn more: info@accioenergy.com Contact:
Jeff Basch
General Manager
Accio Energy, Inc.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

When Two Or More Are Gathered....

Alas, but life is something that happens to you while you are busy making other plans. Due to weather and other constraints I did not make it to Sunward (yes, it is the first of three co- housing developments with Great Oaks) And speaking of serendipity, a good friend and colleague is coming to visit this week who happens to be in the forefront of bio diesel algae research and development. Will speak with him regarding the potential to grow algae in an area where the fresh water supply is limited. What day are you leaving? As far as the building and energy components of the research station are concerned, the answers are only limited to the degree that applications of naturally occurring genius are constrained. That is to say if we are able to develop the local talent (naturally occurring genius in the young people and the genius of nature unconstrained by the viruses of greed and corruption) in conjunction with partners in distance learning projects I am convinced that a great symbiotic adventure can be embarked upon. So although there are many parallel and divergent components needing to be considered in building a successful research station in Madagascar the first and most important one I believe is to embark on that journey through a system of self awareness and empowerment of the local villagers especially the young ones. That takes an understanding and appreciation of the cultural precepts as part of a discovery of all the potential resources that could be involved in the success (or failure) of this and future projects.
Looking forward,
Jim Bates
Southern Exposure REC
(248) 245-7114
edOn Sat, Jan 17, 2009 at 1:30 AM, Anthony Arnold wrote:
Serendipitously I have given a presentation about Madagascar at Great Oak co-housing community back in August, maybe that is near Sunward? It would be great to stop by and meet up with you for a bit but I will probably only be able to stay for a short while as I'm leaving next week and yes going to South Africa and then to Madagascar in 6ms as the 'Applied' part of my degree I like the power station ideas that your talking about. Have you ever heard of anything about algae biofuels, I hear that it is supposed to be energy efficient to produce with out much environmental impact http://www.valcent.net/s/Ecotech.asp?ReportID=182039 or High density vertical growing systems http://www.valcent.net/s/HDVGS.asp?ReportID=266563As far as building materials found locally there is endless amounts of sand and lime stone (for concrete/plaster), straw (for straw bale buildings) water can be sparse, so we are going to study the local hydrology better and test a few ways to build wells and may hire a well drilling company to drill a professional wall for our field site.Timber is relatively abundant, but the forest canopy is 6 meters high at most so there are not a lot of huge rain forest trees. Were we are at there is not much processing of timber so you can get logs which works well enough. Depending on how much lumber is needed, it makes more sense to bring milled lumber from the capital where it is possible buy planks in whatever dimension you need and what every other logistics (materials/tools) can likely be procured from the capital.A power station sounds like exactly what is needed and if it is simple enough that local people and university students can become immediately involved in constructing, learning about, benefiting from it and passing it on, all the better. As i said before there is major solar, wind and tidal energies to be harness. ill fill you in with the rest tomorrow best Anthony
On Sat, Jan 17, 2009 at 12:30 AM, Jim Bates <renewablesjim@gmail.com> wrote:
I may be going to Ann Arbor tomorrow (Saturday) evening to the Sunward Co-Housing for a dance/music party. If you are not already It would be great for you to become familiar with Co-Housing as a potential development idea for Madagascar as it is a model of a small village with a common house being central to it's design. Give me a call if you are available to attend there and bring a friend.
Jim Bates
On Fri, Jan 16, 2009 at 5:31 PM, Anthony Arnold <arnold.anthony@gmail.com> wrote:
HI Jim It looks like my plans to go to South Africa for my masters project is going to work out after all so it is good that we met when we did. I showed a friend of mine one of the wind spires and he really was interested to know more about them and probably would consider setting one (maybe more then one) up at his house if he has the wind power. He was interested in checking them out at the auto show and would like to learn more about them directly from you. Can I put him in touch with you to learn more about them?ON a different note, I guess it was never quite clear to me so I wanted to ask directly how you guys potentially could see your projects and the Madagascar project lining up? I know we talked about distance learning and that is really appealing to me, I just was curious to know if you had any more specific ideas that would be relatively easily attainable in the near future?Id be interested to learn more...
thanks again-- Anthony Arnold co-founder of New Latitude - who's mission is to mobilize initiatives that actively promote community projects benefiting both people and the environment's most vital steps in conservation are mapping biodiversity, identifying priority areas, restoration, and making conservation profitable',from The Future of Life, E. O. Wilson-- Anthony Arnold co-founder of New Latitude - who's mission is to mobilize initiatives that actively promote community projects benefiting both people and the environment's most vital steps in conservation are mapping biodiversity, identifying priority areas, restoration, and making conservation profitable',from The Future of Life, E. O. Wilson

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Funding Constraints could become CATALYST for Disruptive Digital Learning

Michigan school districts fear budget cuts

Declines in state revenue could create deficits


The January revenue conference -- when lawmakers meet to begin deciding how much money the state will have for next year's budget -- has an ominous feel for many Michigan school administrators this year.

They gratefully accepted an early Christmas present from the state, when Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced that midyear budget cuts would not affect schools.

But with 54% of Michigan's districts holding less than the recommended 15% of their budget in savings, and about one third of the districts approaching dangerously low levels of savings, administrators will be nervously watching the conference -- which starts Jan. 9 -- and hoping there will be enough money in next year's budget to keep their programs going.

"The thing that really frightens me for the future is, where do we go next?" said David Houle, business manager for Willow Run Community Schools. "We're going to come to a point where there are no additional cuts you can make that don't impact in the classroom."

In these uncertain economic times, state revenues could be down between $500 million and $1 billion next year, according to Mitch Bean, director of the House Fiscal Agency.

At best, any drop in state revenue could mean school districts have to make cuts in anything from supplies to transportation. At worst, cuts in school revenues would drive some districts into a deficit.

"This is not an environment in which we expect to get anything," said Tom White, executive director of Michigan School Business Officials. "It's really a question of how difficult it's going to be and what we're going to do about it."

"There are so many unknowns, it's like playing with a whole deck of wild cards," White said. His organization is recommending school administrators plan for no increase in school funding next year.

The good news is that there may be more money available for schools because there are fewer students. Michigan lost about 5,000 pupils, saving about $40 million because school money is doled out on a per-pupil basis.

The bad news is that schools don't necessarily lose pupils in cost-saving ways. A district that loses 25 students is unlikely to lose them in the same classroom or even the same building. So expenses such as teachers, heating and transportation remain the same.

What could help? Strong Christmas sales generating more tax revenue, help for the U.S. automakers saving Michigan jobs or a timely federal economic stimulus package that could include a significant savings for Michigan in Medicaid.

"As soon as those sales in the state go down, we're not funding our schools," Houle said.

But even if these situations materialize, no one knows whether they will be enough. Most worried are those whose districts are likely to fall into a deficit if the state cuts any funding.

"It's the equivalent of squeezing blood out of a turnip," said Charles Muncatchy, superintendent of Mt. Clemens Community Schools. He said his district is out of savings, and the likely result of any funding cuts would be a deficit.

East Detroit Public Schools also would be likely to end up in a deficit if state funding is cut. The district is down to a slim $57,000 in savings.

"It's a mess," said Superintendent Bruce Kefgen. "I can't tell you where we'd ultimately cut."

The Willow Run Community Schools district already was in a deficit, and files an annual plan on how it is reducing its deficit with the state.

"We've already made major changes and concessions with our employees and staffing," Houle said. "We don't have anyplace to go for discretionary spending."

Even well-heeled districts can struggle.

Bloomfield Hills Public Schools has a cushion in the form of $20 million in savings, but its officials still feel that it has to close two schools next year.

"Just because we have a fund balance doesn't mean our board wants to tap it," said district spokeswoman Betsy Erikson.

Educators say if money is tight, it's only fair for the state and federal governments to chip in by dropping some of the schools' requirements.

"If you don't have the money for us, you could cut some of those unfunded mandates," said Kefgen. He suggests cutting back on the state testing programs such as the MEAP, which he said costs districts thousands of dollars to administer, or rethinking all the databases that districts are required to keep.

Muncatchy said he would like the federal government to fund some of the requirements under No Child Left Behind.

"I'm all for rigor and that schools should be places of excellence, but other countries in the world spend 30% of their federal funds on education, and America spends less than 3%," Muncatchy said.

Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-826-7262 or mmwalsh@freepress.com.

Disruptive Digital Learning equals Cheaper, Better, Faster!

Waivers free high school students to study online, off-campus

State steps up role in Web-based high school education


Eleven Michigan school districts and one charter school can now allow students to take more courses -- and in some cases all of their classes -- online and off-campus, moves that could further cement the state's reputation as a leader in online education.

Michigan already broke new ground in 2006 by becoming the first state in the nation to require students take an online class or have an online educational experience in order to graduate.

Just in November, the Center for Digital Education ranked Michigan second, behind Florida, for online education.

Two metro Detroit districts -- Waterford and Avondale -- are among the handful moving farther ahead, winning approval from the Michigan Department of Education to allow larger numbers of students to take online courses wherever they want.

At least two dozen of the state's 552 districts and 230 charter schools have applied for the waivers from rules that require students be in a school building for nearly 1,100 hours each school year. Students also are currently limited by state law to taking only two online courses outside a school building during a semester.

"That would be so much easier," Kayla Jacques, 18, of Waterford said of the chance to take online courses from the comfort of home. She is a senior at Waterford Alternative High School and stays late after school several days a week to take an online class.

The waivers are a result of a challenge issued to districts earlier this year by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, with the goal of seeing what innovative ideas school districts could come up with if they were allowed to bypass some rules that might be "standing in the way of schools reaching more kids," said MaryAlice Galloway, senior adviser to the chief academic officer at MDE.

Most of the 24 districts that submitted proposals targeted struggling students, particularly those attending alternative high schools. That's not surprising given that a quarter of the state's students fail to graduate on time, including 15% who drop out altogether.

Nearly all of the districts made online education a key component of the plans.

"It gives them a shot at catching up," said George Heitsch, Avondale superintendent.

Virtual enrollment boom

Online education has soared in Michigan in the last decade, illustrated by growth in enrollment at Michigan Virtual University, one of the options students have to take online classes. MVU offers more than 200 high school courses and enrollment has spiraled upward from 100 students in the 1999-2000 school year to an expected 15,000 this school year.

Part of the growth is influenced by students who need to make up credits required to graduate. But there also are students who want to take on larger course loads, those who want to take courses their schools don't offer and those with scheduling conflicts that prevent them from taking classes they want.

Most of those students who enroll at MVU, however, take one course at a time. The seat-time waivers will give students in districts that win approval an opportunity to take most or all of their course work online. And, in most cases, it allows them to take classes anywhere they can find an Internet connection.

That's what has Jacob Carman, 18, intrigued. A student at Waterford Alternative High School, he said being away from school would mean fewer distractions while he's learning. And there would be the convenience of not having to follow a school schedule.

The Avondale district, approved for a seat-time waiver last month, already has 10 students taking all of their classes online. Conor Helmrich, 16, is one of them.

"I'm able to wake up, turn my computer on and get going," Conor said. It's a lifestyle that has made him the envy of his friends. "They wish they could sleep in until whenever, and then do their work."

It may sound unstructured, and for the student who lacks inner motivation, online classes from home may not work. It helps that Conor's parents play an active role in his education. And the school closely monitors online students' progress and how often they log into the system.

"I got my parents all over my back on this," Conor said. "They're calling me like every hour making sure I'm on track."

No one is expecting hordes of students to sign up for a schedule in which they don't have to show up for school every day, if at all.

Jacques and her friend Katie VanOvermeer, 17, say they wouldn't want to take all of their classes online.

"I like coming to school here," Jacques said.

The Waterford district is beginning the program with alternative high students and those who are homebound for medical reasons. It will then expand it to its traditional high schools, said Lynn Kosinski, supervisor of secondary education.

But the district's plan includes limiting participants to 10% of the student body.

Trial program

The state is looking at the seat-time waivers as a pilot program and will closely monitor how well it works.

"What we're going to learn is not only which kids do well, but what kinds of support a district can give them to help them succeed in a virtual learning environment," Galloway said.

One thing they do know is that students taking online classes need support. Districts allowing students to take their course work online will assign a teacher mentor who regularly will meet face-to-face with them and monitor progress between meetings. Some districts also require students to take exams on a school site.

The Avondale district last spring piloted an afternoon program in which 12 students came into a computer lab and took all of their courses online. That program is still going on, but the seat-time waiver has opened it up to allowing up to 80 students to complete their course work outside of school.

Among the 10 students enrolled are four who would just rather not come to school. But there are others who have been expelled and can't come to school, said Chuck Granger, director of community education, adult education and the Avondale Academy, the district's alternative program.

Contact LORI HIGGINS at 248-351-3694 or lhiggins@freepress.com.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge.

Saturday, December 27, 2008



St. Clair County students work on a solar-hydrogen fuel cell car. From left: Jason Hoogerhyde, John Freeman, Cody Benedict and Evan Miller. Rather than learning TV repair, students are getting trained in alternative energy.

Schools to invest in alternative energy, give students edge


St. Clair County RESA Career Technical Center students will be calculating actual energy outputs from school-owned windmills, solar panels and a hydroelectric plant.

In Warren Consolidated Schools, students will find lessons from a district-owned wind power station integrated into their classes.

Both programs are the result of a trend by a growing number of schools to meld alternative energy into their lesson plans.

"I think kids are interested in this type of thing. And a lot of us see it as the future, to lessen our reliance on nonrenewable sources. And there are going to be jobs there," said Dan DeGrow, superintendent of St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency.

St. Clair RESA plans to invest up to $450,000, depending on how much grant money it receives, in three wind turbines -- each about 100 feet tall -- solar panels next to the turbines and a mini-hydro plant. It will be working with local governments on getting site permits.

Gone are the days of students taking high school electronics to become TV repairpeople. The jobs are moving to other categories, such as alternative energy technicians.

"What we decided was we wanted a way to teach traditional electronics but within a more current context," said Pat Yanik, director of career and technical education for RESA.

Beginning next fall, students will monitor the electricity generated by their three alternative energy sources, learn how to convert the power to actual energy and make decisions on how to distribute their self-generated electricity to RESA facilities. The actual energy generated will be small, but the lessons will be huge.

"With the energy crisis and the government push for it at the federal level and the state level, alternative energy seemed to be a pretty going item that students and parents can understand," said electronics teacher Zack Diatchun.

The Warren Consolidated Schools Board of Education has approved up to $9,000 for a wind spire -- a smaller (30-foot high) version of the windmill-style turbine -- to establish a district-wide alternative energy institute, said Superintendent Robert Livernois. Like St. Clair RESA, Warren Consolidated also hopes much of the cost will be offset by grants.

"The sky's the limit for us. That's what's so exciting about it from a K-12 perspective, you can talk to a second-grader and a 12th-grader," Livernois said. "Our belief is you've got to start somewhere, so as we launch this institute, it's really designed to begin cultivating awareness."

Students at St. Clair RESA have been told their program will open in the fall.

"It doesn't seem like something that they put into a high school-type course, but it's a really good idea they're putting it in," said Cody Benedict, 17, a senior from Yale High School who will be going to school for another year and taking the energy program. "It's going to be a larger range of stuff to learn for jobs."

There's no timetable for the Warren Consolidated program yet, but Livernois expects there will be varying components of alternative energy that will be applicable to most grades.

"We're going to use it in a study of just how much energy you can produce in the community," said Mark Supal, a technology teacher at the Macomb Mathematics Science and Technology Center, where the wind spire will be located.

Even students who won't be around for the new programs recognize the possibilities.

"I got accepted to Michigan Tech ... and I'm probably going to take electrical engineering, but I'm probably going to branch into some kind of alternative energy," said Dalton Pelc, 17, a senior from Kimball Township attending Port Huron High School. "That's what we need, and that's because that's what the economy needs."

Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-826-7262 or mmwalsh@freepress.com.