Kettering University students and faculty members are working with the Flint community to make a difference.
Thanks to a Ford College Community Challenge (FCCC) grant, students are partnering with community organizations in Genesee County to help with biology- and chemistry-related projects. Kettering University faculty members Dr. Veronica Moorman and Dr. Jim Cohen match a student to an organization to create educational kits for children and literature, such as brochures and guides, to solve a problem. Kettering students have been involved in three projects so far.
Kevin Koschnitzke ‘22, a Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering dual major, is working at For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum in Burton, Michigan to create trail guides for visitors and clear invasive species from scenic and well-used areas of the nature preserve.
“It’s been a fun experience,” he said. “It’s really nice to see how Kettering has helped the community.”
When Moorman and Cohen approached the staff at For-Mar, the staff had been discussing making trail guides to assist visitors around the 383-acre nature preserve and help them identify wildlife and plant life, said For-Mar Naturalist Nicole Ferguson.
Koschnitzke got to work on them, learning about the nature preserve, the plant life, and the animal inhabitants. He spent much of his summer outside, which he enjoyed. For-Mar is home to animal species, such as Pileated woodpeckers and endangered Blanding's turtles. He’s even seen a bobcat in the nature preserve.
The trail guide will include trail length and difficulty as well as cool features of the park, such as the butterfly house and tree house, he said. The guides, which are in progress, will have space for visitors to take notes about what they see if they want to ask naturalists to help identify a species.
Koschnitzke also has been working with staff and the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network to identify and remove invasive species in the preserve. Plants such as oriental bittersweet, phragmites, buckthorn, autumn olive, and multiflora rose are damaging and pushing out native plants. Koschnitzke organized invasive-species removal days; Kettering students and community members volunteered to pull and cut invasive plants from areas around lookout points and benches along trails and ponds without damaging native plants or causing erosion.
“Kevin is the perfect person. He jumped right in and was excited,” Ferguson said. “He’s a hard worker, and he understands the branded pieces.”
Ferguson said For-Mar’s ultimate goal is to create kits for children to teach them how to identify local plants, insects, mammals, and amphibians in their own backyards. For-Mar and Kettering will house the kits for parents and teachers to check out.
“Kettering has done a great job of reaching out to other organizations to provide a new partnership avenue. It’s really important for our community to see the value and what the impact could be,” she said. “It was a really neat opportunity when they did the volunteer days. Lots of people had never been here before.”
Two previous FCCC projects involved the Flint River Watershed Coalition and the Flint Children’s Museum.
Taylor Lowe ‘18 dug into literature to understand the dangers of PFAS contamination in the Flint River and helped the coalition design signs and materials to warn residents concerning safe quantities of fish from the river to eat. She also designed K-12 outreach activities related to the river.
Alyssa Warburton ‘18 helped the Children’s Museum staff infuse their garden project with more science. Warburton designed activities to help students use their five senses to understand plants.
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