An environmental science teacher at Muir Middle School has been given high marks for his civic-minded leadership by the General Motors (GM) Foundation, as one of the winners of the Chevrolet Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN) Educator Award.
Vaughn Smith has brought energy and civic learning into his science classes at Muir Middle School for a decade and has been involved in the GM GREEN program for the past five years.
He is one of only two Michigan winners chosen in the first of round of five national winners this September. Another five are to be selected this month.
For six years, Smith has been accompanying his 8th-grade students to the Huron River each spring to conduct water quality monitoring.
“We test the water for dissolved oxygen, how cloudy or clear the water is, the bugs in the water, and conduct chemical testing,” Smith said. “It gives us a picture of water quality and how well we’re taking care of the watershed.”
The event affords students the opportunity to rub elbows with environmental and chemical engineers from GM.
“The kids are all in waders in the river and doing all the work themselves — there’s a lot of discovery going on under the heading of ‘Inquiry Education,’” Smith said.
The student-lead exercise collects data that is shared with 30 other schools up and down the Huron River.
“They then compare the data to see our water quality,” Smith said.
GM rewards educators of all types who have gone above and beyond to integrate quality environmental education into their schools, universities and community programs.
“It’s a wonderful recognition for the dynamic kids I’m able to work with,” Smith said. “None of this would work without having kids who show leadership skills. They develop interpersonal skills and work as a team.”
Smith’s national honor will be formally recognized by the Huron Valley Schools Board of Education tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 6.