Founded in 2008, the Southeast Michigan Stewardship, or SEMIS, Coalition seeks to partner schools and community organizations, as well as help educators learn how to take an eco-justice approach to community-based projects with students.
SEMIS has grown across Southeast Michigan, with its largest presence in Detroit. The organization has expanded its reach to teachers from more than 17 schools and 25 partner organizations in the area in order to encourage both teachers and students to work toward the organization’s goal.
Among those who have worked with the organization is Chad Segrist, the lead science teacher and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) director at the Detroit Institute of Technology.
SEMIS is integral in Segrist's work with students, he says: “I think that we’ve provided them [students] with a medium for strengthening their communities."
The organization has also been working toward assisting new schools in using a place-based approach. Among these is the James & Grace Lee Boggs School.
The principal of the school, Julia Putnam, taught in Detroit for five years
before taking her current post, and has been working with SEMIS since
the school was founded. “The organization helps the children think about the contribution that they can make toward the well-being of the community. Grace Lee Boggs used to say that it’s a shame that kids go to school, but aren’t educated in a way that benefits the community. Her goal was, among other things, to integrate students into their communities as student-ambassadors —this has become one of SEMIS’ main goals.”
Lisa Lipscomb, a teacher at Neinas Elementary School in Detroit, says that her students tackled the subject of graffiti by researching it and its root causes — and eventually lead a community meeting with law enforcement officials on the subject.
The coalition's work empowers both children and the community, Lipscomb says. "[Lowenstein] told me to trust the process, that being the one based around place-based education, and I don't think that I could've made a better choice."
The Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition isn’t simply an environment-based organization; it’s an organization that takes an eco-justice and place-based approach to working with teachers and students in order to solve problems in Detroit.
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