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First Earth Day Student Summit gets students future focused

While a DJ cued up everything from ABBA to Taylor Swift at Michigan State University (MSU)’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center auditorium in East Lansing, 150-plus Michigan high school and middle school students moved to the beat, chatted excitedly, and inhaled lunches from compostable trays.

Students at an EGLE exhibit at the 2024 Student Summit at Michigan State University.

Students at an EGLE exhibit at the 2024 Student Summit at Michigan State University. 


It was midday of the first-ever Michigan Earth Day Student Summit, sponsored by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and partners to grow students’ knowledge of environmental issues and vision for their futures.

“It’s a great opportunity to introduce these kids to green careers,” said Bridget Booth, a Haslett Middle School eighth-grade science teacher who attended the April 25 event with 21 middle and high school students, including high schoolers who she said are preparing an environment-focused presentation to the local Board of Education.

Haslett Middle was one of 10 schools honored at the event for earning certified Michigan Green Schools status by promoting good ecological practices and students’ environmental stewardship. EGLE manages Green Schools through its Environmental Education Program.

Other Green Schools represented were CA Frost Environmental Science Academy in Grand Rapids, Clinton High School, Davison High School, Fenton High School, International Academy of Macomb, Leelanau School, Upton Middle School in St. Joseph, and West Side Christian School in Grand Rapids.

The summit also included the announcement of EGLE’s 2024 Earth Day Environmental Service Award Winners for high school and middle school projects that benefit Michigan flora, wildlife, air, water, land, or ecosystems. Yale High School won for an aquaponics project that harnessed wastewater from a salmon classroom program to nourish hydroponic lettuce. Upton Middle School’s Environmental Club won for its successful drive to become a Michigan Green School by launching a composting program, establishing a native garden, and championing recycling and sustainability.

EGLE Environmental Education Coordinator Eileen Boekestein said it was energizing to see so many young people fired up to protect the environment.

“The Student Summit made Earth Day and Earth Week a true celebration of their efforts,” Boekestein said. “I believe these students are even better equipped now to go out and make a difference for the better in their schools and communities.”

Morenci Area High School Senior Rowan Shaffer said she and four classmates from the school’s environmental Gecko Club, attending with teacher Jonathan Boesger, were able to learn from larger schools’ environmental actions, such as recycling and sustainability programs.

“It’s interesting to get different perspectives and see what we can be capable of in the future,” Shaffer said.

EGLE presented the summit in partnership with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), Grow the Earth, and the MSU Science Festival. Public- and private-school students in grades 6-12 attended from more than 20 locations around Michigan.

Participants heard from speakers and joined breakout sessions in the morning with representatives from EGLE, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, MDARD, MSU, Grow the Earth, the 4-H Stewards Sustainability Leadership Institute, and more.

After lunch, they scattered across campus in small groups for hands-on activities and field experiences focused on sustainability and exploring environment-related careers in areas such as recycling, infrastructure, wastewater, and the built environment.

Ruth Kline-Robach, a water resource outreach specialist with MSU, led a dozen or so students to explore “Roots and Rain.” The group walked along the Red Cedar River through campus and learned about stormwater and ways to keep runoff from polluting our waterways: features like porous pavement, rain gardens, and green roofs.

“The goal is to get kids excited and steer them to careers,” she said.

The summit was booked to capacity and is planned as an annual event. Learn more about EGLE educational programs by exploring the EGLE Classroom webpage.