Impact 100 Metro Detroit 2019 Grant Summary
Grant Finalist: Green Living Science
Project: BEE GREEN Plastic STEAM Machine (BGPSM)

Background: GLS began in 2008, as an outgrowth of Detroit’s drop-off recycling center, Recycle Here! and through a partnership with Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). The program began by presenting assemblies and in-class lessons to teach about recycling and conservation of natural resources. Since 2008, GLS has reached over 150,000 students through these programs.

Unmet Need: Michigan ranks 48th in per-pupil spending. In an urban community, this not only means access to efficient resources needed for quality education is reduced, but it means the educational opportunities in the future will be reduced for these low-income students. The BGPSM is an opportunity to eliminate inequities in education affecting urban schools. Michigan recycling rates are the lowest in the Great Lakes region due to the cheap cost for disposing of waste in landfills. Detroit’s 650,000+ residents are adversely impacted by the trash, air pollution and debris pervading the residential areas in the city.

Detroit was home to one of the largest waste to energy facilities (WTE) in the nation, this facility officially closed on March 27, 2019. The impact of the emissions has affected the thousands of Detroiters surrounding the facility for over 33 years. By teaching students about waste, we hope to begin to change the mindset of waste disposal and educate on the impact of consumption and how this affects the world around us.

Project Summary: GLS created a traveling workshop for students to understand how plastic pollution impacts our planet. The BGPSM travels to schools allowing students to explore and engage with innovative recycling technology. Curriculum will be developed for all ages of students to interact with the machines. Using a discovery method of learning, students will be introduced to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education. Using a new way of teaching, students will use their hands and minds to build and create prototypes while practicing problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity.

Students in urban schools do not always have access to this unique type of learning; with the BGPSM, GLS will help students develop skills for a successful future and provide students with the information necessary to feel confident in their understanding of how waste impacts their lives and the community around them.

Outcome: Project success of the BGPSM will be defined by the following criteria:
1) Having age-appropriate activities for each grade level
2) Reaching 10 schools in Detroit during the 2019-2020 school year and our summer programs in partnership with COTS, Girl Scouts and BuildOn. In addition to 5 schools during the 2020-2021 school year.
3) An increase in students interest in STEAM subjects and 4) Reduction of recycling tonnage compared to trash tonnage in Detroit.

Sustainability: The funds from the grant will help GLS to build the foundation of the program. Funding has already been received to build out the project and this funding will ensure the program success by developing the curriculum and the opportunity to introduce it to the community. GLS already has a strong network of teachers and schools and will be able to continue having partners and locations for the project to visit each year. We will continue to work closely with DPSCD to integrate this program in their curriculum, once it is proven useful by every teacher. After the funds are spent, individual giving contributions and grants will help to sustain our educational programming as it has done in the past.

This model has also allowed GLS to have an education director on staff to schedule and conduct school visits. Maintenance of the trailer and machines will be ongoing and will come directly from GLS’ operating budget or from corporate and foundation grants when available.

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