MSU Upward Bound students looking at aquatic life through a microscope

Lansing School District high school students who participate in MSU’s Upward Bound program spend six weeks of their summer on MSU’s campus taking academic courses and educational field trips.

While most teenagers spend their summer relaxing and taking time off from studying, the Lansing School District high school students who participate in MSU’s Upward Bound program spend six weeks of their summer on MSU’s campus taking academic courses and educational field trips. 

One of those field trips involves a trip to the MSU Sailing Center, located on Lake Lansing in Haslett, Mich., where the Upward Bound students are not only learning about sailing, but also about a variety of STEM-related topics including physics, invasive species and the chemical composition of the lake water. 

This particular field trip began four years ago when former MSU Director of Budget and Personnel for the Vice President for Student Affairs and Services, Penny Wali, who took a sailing class six years ago at the MSU Sailing Center.  She loved the experience so much that she provided seed money to the university in order to provide the sailing experience to MSU Upward Bound students.

“Most of these students have never been on a boat and would likely never get the opportunity to go on a boat without this program,” Glenda Hammond, director of MSU’s Upward Bound program, said.  “In addition to the MSU Sailing Center experience, we strive to provide the students with a wide variety of opportunities they would otherwise not have access to including golfing, educational trips to other states and visiting college campuses across the United States.”

Initially, the MSU Sailing Center experience was meant to provide the students with a recreational break from their summer studies, but during one of the sailing excursions with the students, Ken Warshaw, sports facility professional at the MSU Sailing Center, made a discovery that was the turning point for adding the educational component to the program.

“I was skippering the boat with the Upward Bound students one morning and I saw a can floating on the surface of the lake, so I scooped it up with my hand as we sailed by it,” Warshaw said.  “On the bottom of the can were several zebra mussels, an invasive species in Lake Lansing.  The kids were instantly fascinated by the zebra mussels and started asking me question after question about them.  As I answered their questions, it occurred to me that this field trip could serve as a perfect opportunity to teach these students about plant and animal life in the lake in a way that is both interactive and fun.”

Warshaw worked closely with MS. Eiland, the Academic Coordinator to put together a curriculum that now allows for the students to learn how and why a boat floats via a physics lesson; to study the chemical composition of the water in Lake Lansing; to view aquatic life under a microscope and to use their math skills to graph the rate of change in the number of zebra mussels in the lake over time.  MSU’s Upward Bound program is truly cutting edge in offering this curriculum to its students, as it is currently the only one of its kind in the country.  

“This is such a wonderful opportunity to teach STEM principles in a way that get the kids excited about learning,” Diane Spence, mathematics teacher from Sexton High School, said.  “It is inspiring to me to watch the kids applying math and science concepts to real life experiences.”

The Upward Bound program at MSU is a federally funded program designed to help disadvantaged youths, with academic potential, develop their potential for post-secondary education.  For more information about MSU Upward Bound program visit their website.  More photos of the Upward Bound students at the MSU Sailing Center can be found here and here.  And, to see what other educational activities these student have been up to this summer, click here and here.