Char-Em ISD among grant awardees for creating innovative Project Based Learning experiences

Gov. Whitmer Boosts Funding for 16 schools to expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs to prepare students for in-demand jobs 

LANSING, Mich. – Governor Gretchen Whitmer, along with state environmental and workforce leaders, announced 16 K-12 institutions, school districts and educational partnerships have been awarded $205,028 to develop Great Lakes-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) educational programs for students. These grants build on the governor’s educational budget proposal, which includes the highest per-student investment ever, $1 billion for new school construction and renovation, funds to hire and retain 15,000 teachers, and more resources for on-campus mental health support. 

Among the awardees is the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, which will receive $20,000 to help propel new Project Based Learning (PBL) units in local schools. 

Erin Luckhardt, Instructional Technology Coordinator for Char-Em ISD, noted that “students benefit from the PBL approach because it provides them with an authentic project or problem to solve, which ultimately makes for a more engaging learning experience. It answers the question, ‘Why do we need to know this?’ and encourages students to share their learning in a public space.”

Luckhardt said the grant dollars will help cover classroom materials that teachers need for PBL units and teacher stipends for professional learning to create new PBL units. 

Local teachers recently worked on creating Project Based Learning plans.

According to Luckhardt, aspects of Project Based Learning are already happening in many classrooms throughout the ISD, and this will help ISD staff formalize the process to help provide students with “authentic and engaging learning experiences and deeper connections to their communities.”

Whitmer said the grants will support freshwater literacy programs and offer students access to real-world STEM experiences. 

“Our Great Lakes are our greatest asset, and we must empower young Michiganders to learn more about them and continue advancing conservation efforts. Michigan’s economic competitiveness depends on a workforce proficient in STEM and committed to solving our biggest challenges. Investments like these will help prepare our kids to lead our state into the future,” the governor said.

Toward that initiative, Luckhardt added that an environmental project focusing on water will be undertaken with 2nd grade teachers in summer 2023. “Water is such an essential aspect of our communities. Learning about its impact and importance can be done at many different grade levels and content areas,” Luckhardt said.

In total, the grants, announced in connection with Michigan’s Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week, are a collaborative effort of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s (LEO) MiSTEM Network to expand freshwater literacy and place-based STEM education and to support innovative STEM 3-P (problem, place and project-based) learning. 

“The Great Lakes State is investing in great leadership for our future,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. “These innovative educational programs and experiences will shape tomorrow’s advocates, policymakers and champions who will value and safeguard Michigan’s waterways and watersheds.” 

“This continued partnership between EGLE and LEO supports students and educators through new and innovative approaches to STEM education to help close our state’s talent gap and prepare our students for high-demand career paths in STEM fields and beyond,” said Susan Corbin, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. “We applaud these schools and community partners across the state for taking advantage of this grant opportunity and working with us to gear up today’s talent for the jobs of the future.” 

Grant proposals were submitted and reviewed through a competitive request for proposal process. Projects were selected that best incorporated freshwater-focused efforts, place-based approaches and real-world experiences to engage students about the importance of Michigan’s Great Lakes and water resources and prepare them for careers in a variety of STEM fields.  


Pictured at top: Recently, 14 local educators began to create a Project Based Learning Unit for their classrooms. During their first 4 days, they worked to better understand PBL, connect and collaborate with local educators, and had an opportunity to spend a day in a business immersion with Kilwins and Manthei Wood Products to learn more about how the content and skills taught in their classrooms carried over into businesses. PBL will continue to move forward after the ISD received a MiSTEM grant. This opportunity will be offered again in the summer of 2023. PBL workshops and trainings will be co-facilitated by Erin Luckhardt, Char-Em ISD Instructional Technology Consultant, and Linnea Gibson, K-12 Science Consultant. 
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