Vision and Encouragement Move the Needle to Engage Kids

Vision and Encouragement Move the Needle to Engage Kids

I first heard about Freshwater Future at a small gathering of Great Lakes advocates on a cold winter night in Chicago. I was immediately interested in their Insight Grant Program. My organization, LakeDance, was a near solo venture wherein I brought Great Lakes education, enhanced by creative movement, into Evanston schools to deepen their science units. With plenty of passion and classroom by classroom success, I dreamed of expanding the program to include all Evanston, Illinois schools and engage the teachers more, toward a goal of long term sustainability.

Fresh from a failed grant application to the EPA to do just that, I applied for and was accepted into the Insight Services Program.

The coming months with Jill Ryan were transformational. First of all, she commended my successes and my impressive and real partners, School District 65 Science Curriculum Coordinator Melanie Mudarth and Alliance for the Great Lakes Education Manager Katie Larson.

Having identified my main partners, Jill boldly set up meetings with the four of us. I say boldly because my relationships with Katie and Melanie were young and I imagined that they were wondering where I was headed with this work and how much more I was going to ask of them. I didn’t know how they’d feel about donating even more time to figuring out why this EPA grant failed and how to succeed next time.

However, Melanie and Katie graciously agreed to participate in a series of Strategic Planning sessions on behalf of LakeDance.

The process was practical, efficient and empowering. I came up with a Mission and Vision that I still use, solidified nascent partnerships, included the partnership of the City of Evanston, and went on to write a successful grant to the Illinois Coastal management Program. Now LakeDance is in two grades in all District 65 schools, reaching 1500 students with locally relevant Great Lakes education enhancing their water units.


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.