GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) - Scholars in sixth, seventh and eighth grades at Burton Middle School will take to the great outdoors October 17-19, getting down-to-earth with environmental science and place-based learning. 

The Burton Middle School Science team—in conjunction with Sally Triant, the district’s environmental education consultant, and Jessica Vander Ark, the district’s science curriculum supervisor—has been working to put together a day of outdoor fieldwork with an ultimate goal of improving learning outcomes for all of the scholars.

Stacey Post, a Burton Middle School science teacher, said the team will use the Plaster Creek Family Park and Burton’s own outdoor classroom space, called “The Nest,” to create an exciting learning day for scholars.

Cross-curricular connections with history, social studies and English/Language Arts will be included and scholars will spend time at five stations for each grade level.

Students will move through each station and spend about 20-25 minutes learning with a number of community partners, including WMEAC, Plaster Creek Stewards, geologist Mike Dallas, Kent Conservation District, GR Outside – Gear Library and the Grand Rapids City Parks and Recreation Department.

Principal Michael Perez said he is excited about everything the day has to offer, including the chance for staff and scholars to work and learn alongside members of the community.

“Our goal is to make this fieldwork event a regular part of Burton Middle School, strengthening community ties,” he said.

Post noted that each grade level will go out on one day with half the grade outdoors for a morning session and half for an afternoon session.

The first group will be out from 8:30 am-11 am and the second group from 11:30 am-2 pm with eighth grade outdoors on October 17, seventh grade on October 18 and sixth grade on October 19.

Stations will include a wide variety of activities around specific themes for each grade. Sixth grade will have an emphasis on water, seventh grade will focus on geology and ornithology and eighth grade will focus on trees and native perennials. All activities will connect scholars to place as they learn about the history of Plaster Creek Park. 

Burton’s outdoor educational emphasis was jump-started four years ago with a renovation project that was part of the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative which works to create outdoor learning spaces for children across the U.S.

The million-dollar project was funded by a grant, money from the city’s dedicated parks millage and contributions from the Wege Foundation and the city’s Environmental Services Department.

One of the underlying goals of the project was to give Burton Middle School students more reasons to be outside, and the upcoming outdoor fieldwork days are part of that emphasis, Post said, while also opening the minds of scholars to consider careers that might involve actual fieldwork in their future. 

For more information, contact Leon Hendrix at