Third 90 Wetlands Restoration Program

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Update on SAM’s Living Laboratory in Monroe

Third 90 Wetlands Restoration Program

Marygrove’s Science and Mathematics Department (SAM) engages students in and out of the classroom with the Third 90 Wetlands Restoration Program— an on-going collaboration with the Michigan Colleges Foundation (MCF) that puts high school students in the field-literally—to expose them to career interests. Schools participating in Third 90 push for 90 percent of their students to graduate from high school and college.

“If students are exposed to educational experiences directly, it carries on through their life, explained Tina Yerkes, Executive Director of the Third 90 Network. “The point is to do just that while raising awareness in environmental science.”

Third 90 is sponsored by MCF, which funds similar outreach programs and scholarships that attract, engage, and retain talent for the state. Marygrove is one of 14 partnering colleges that provide mentorship and learning opportunities for students.

The restoration program, now into its second year, has transformed the abandoned farmland to its natural terrain. A murky wonder-wetland now envelops the once irrigated soil. Detroit’s University Prep students planted trees and studied the restoration effects. Soil nutrition and wildlife presence give clues to the state of the land.

“Cattails have taken over in the past six months, said Dr. Steve Scribner, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Marygrove and faculty leader of the project. “We’re looking for different wildlife that are visiting and nesting. The basic analysis is to determine if it’s a successful restoration project,” he said.

The project has given Marygrove and University Prep students a chance to learn through inventive means, such as creating a snake hibernaculum. This involves fitting tubes underground for snakes to use as hibernation shelter. It’s a unique learning experience for high school students and gives SAM students a focus for their senior seminar projects.

“It’s really a neat outreach program that exposes students to an environment they wouldn’t otherwise get to learn in,” Scribner said.

University Prep students also work in Marygrove’s updated science facilities, featuring devices such as the Gas Chromatograph mass spectrophotometer, and the Inductively Coupled Plasma instrument, both used for the identification of unknown compounds in chemistry research and medical technology. Students develop the know-how only privileged to professional scientists entrusted with such expensive devices.

The experience is made possible through Michigan Caterpillar President Jerry Jung, who buys and donates land for restoration. The land, appropriately enough, was the original farmland of Marygrove’s sponsors, the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters.

From the early 1920’s to 1975, the Sisters operated Monroe’s largest farming operation on the same land now used for hands-on learning. The Sisters ran a farm for cattle, crops, and milk—which output a daily 240 gallons. Such massive resources were used to feed the Sisters and 3,000 others whom they cared for at sponsored schools in southeastern Michigan.

Now, 35 years later, the land continues to feed students, fueling their hunger for knowledge with unique learning opportunities.

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