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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

New Sleeping Bear Birding Trail Is First in State

In Breaking, Education, Elsewhere in BenCo..., GOOD NEWS, Green Elbertians, On and off the Apron, Open Season on May 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (from Douglas Cook, president, Benzie Audubon Club)

April 2013


Michigan’s coastline and habitat diversity have long been a draw to bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.  Birders and eco-tourists spend millions each year in the enjoyment of their pursuits.  Now, the Sleeping Bear Birding Trail, Michigan’s first birding trail, has been formed to connect exceptional birding areas and promote an area that Good Morning America awarded the Most Beautiful Place in America.

The Trail’s new website,, will help guide birders to 35 recommended birding sites scattered along 123 miles of Michigan’s Highway M-22.  The website is smartphone compatible and includes a web-based map that will lead travelers from Manistee, northward  through Benzie County, around the Leelanau peninsula and eventually to Traverse City.

The Trail is anchored by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which has over 71,000 acres of public land and 35 miles of beaches, including vital habitat for the Piping Plover, an endangered shorebird that needs vast stretches of undisturbed beach.  Another rare species, the Kirtland’s Warbler, nests in an area that is an hour’s drive from the Trail.  The National Lakeshore is an Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society and there have been 321 different species recorded along the Trail.

Birding trails are successful in Texas, Arizona, and along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.   Dave Barrons, chairman and co-founder of this grassroots effort says the Sleeping Bear area’s distinct seasons, diverse topography, extensive shoreline and large number of natural areas with public access make it a naturalist’s paradise.  Barrons says: “I always knew we had the resources to add birding to the area’s tourism brand but the surprise was just how much access to diverse, public land there is along M-22.  We have been able to build from a wide range of birding sites that already have public parking and strong stewardship. Some trail initiatives have to attack that challenge first.”  “This is not just a single trail where you get out and hike around looking for birds,” he says. “It’s a travel route, a way of connecting a number of birding sites in a way that allows you to include them in your itinerary and enjoy some incredible scenery.”

Mick Seymour, Operations Director and co-founder says, “Birders have never had a better opportunity to make a difference and contribute to citizen science.  We now have the ability to meticulously record what we see and hear through the use of eBird and the built-in GPS technology.  Birders all over the world are recording where, when, and how many and this data is enormously valuable to the science and understanding of species distribution and abundance.  Our Trail embraces this technology and aims to be a microcosm and model for the eBird initiative.” The Trail is especially committed to developing electronic reporting and interactive mapping features which will distinguish it from existing trails.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes Birding Trail is being developed in partnership with Michigan Audubon, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, The Leelanau Conservancy, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


–      48 million Americans report they are active birdwatchers; approx 16 million birdwatch while traveling

–      more than $32 billion in retail sales

–      more than $13 billion in state and federal taxes

–      more than 863, 000 jobs

………… Us Fish and Wildlife Service:  Birding in the US; A Demographic and Economic Analysis, 2001


Benzie County Water Festival 2013! (Video)

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, Education, Fishing, GOOD NEWS, Green Elbertians, Kid Stuff, Open Season, Politics, Water on April 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm


Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 11.11.31 AM

For the third year in a row, the Benzie County Water Festival convenes this coming Friday at Benzie Central High School from 3:30 pm to 9 pm.

This year’s theme is: “Under The Surface,” focused on youth and lesser-understood impacts to our water resources. Once again it brings Michigan musicians, panel discussions, speeches from water luminaries, interactive multimedia projects and presentations, artisan foods and beverages, visual art, children’s activities, and connections to local campaigns and projects. Admission is free; donations go toward future events.

The festival opens with a Water Science Fair at Benzie Central High School during the school day. At 3:30, local organizations will set up displays alongside the student projects and the Dread, a band made up of BCHS students, will take the stage.

Kids’ activities will be ongoing from 4:30 until 6:30 and will include a do-it-yourself water harp, a hydrogen fuel cell car, a watercolor mural, a video station, a stream table, and yes, the live amphibian display returns this year: you can gently meet and hold live Michigan frogs, snakes, and salamanders.

At 5:30pm, Tom Kramer emcees this year’s panel discussions, beginning with Kurt Luedtke of Luedtke Engineering, who will address the recently passed legislation to dredge Betsie Bay.

At 6:00pm, the panel discussion switches to water used for fracking with activist Peggy Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, and journalist Keith Schneider of Circle of Blue.

Stick around for a pizza dinner, available for purchase from the after-school SEEDS program.

At 7:00pm, keynote speaker Hans VanSumeren, one of the most highly regarded underwater vehicle pilots in the nation and director of NMC’s Water Studies Institute, takes the stage to discuss his career as an underwater research innovator and how to encourage young people to enter water studies programs.

‘s role in water stewardship for the future.

At 8 pm, premier Benzie-based Americana band the Fauxgrass Quartet will begin their energizing set.

This is sure to be another deeply local, deeply informative, deeply fun festival, with an appeal as broad as that of water itself.

Learn more at the festival’s webpage and Facebook page.

Below, Jon Maue shares his video coverage of last year’s festival.

League of Women Voters Education Forum (Video)

In Community Alert, Education, Gov't Watch, Kid Stuff, Politics on April 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm

On February 25, the League of Women Voters held a forum on new education legislation and how it might affect local control of schools. Jonathan Maue took this video and has generously let us post it here. The League of Women Voters is a national nonpartisan organization. The Benzie chapter meets every Friday at noon at the Congregational church in Benzonia.

Demystifying the Science of Climate Change Film Presentation

In Calendar, Education, Green Elbertians on March 21, 2013 at 9:29 am

It’s OK to admit it: You just don’t know whether climate change is actually happening and if it is, whether and how it’s going to affect you. On April 17, just ahead of Earth Day, join nationally known filmmaker Peter Sinclair for CLIMATE CHANGE 2013: Demystifying the Science, a presentation at the Garden Theatre. The talk is co-sponsored by NMCAC, the Benzie League of Women Voters, Friends of Betsie Bay, the Benzie Community Water Council, and the May Farm.

For the last 5 years, Peter Sinclair has been challenging the world’s leading climate scientists to explain their research in terms nonexperts can understand. His YouTube series “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” deftly corrects climate misinformation, and has become “must viewing” for students, policy-makers, and citizens around the globe. He now produces a companion series for the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, entitled This Is Not Cool.

Mr. Sinclair’s rich visuals and clear explanations make clear the complexities of the most important challenge civilization has ever faced, and show the way forward.

Wednesday, April 17, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm.  $5 suggested donation. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Panthers Wring Out the Glen Lake Lakers 42-41

In Breaking, Education, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff, Uncategorized on January 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Reporting by Kelli Stapleton 

Panther Logo Purple

January 24, 2013—Frankfort–Elberta Men’s Basketball, state ranked for the first time since the ’70s, under the coachmanship of Elberta mayor Reg Manville, faced the Glen Lake Lakers, who were 9-1 coming into the game.

According to coach Manville, who asked Pete Sandman, the Panthers’ now 10-0 winning streak is one of the longest in 100 years.

This game also marked the debut performance of the Jr. Panther dance crew. Boys and girls from the elementary school danced at halftime under the direction of Vickie Slater of Get Up and Dance. This was adorable. The Frankfort Panther even danced with them.

The Panthers won the game with a basket in the last seconds. According to Ms. Slater, the student body rushed the floor in triumph.

All was not victory, however. According to Ainsley Stapleton, 12, sixth-grade teacher Mrs. Hammon had an unfortunate fall down the bleachers and had to be carried out of the game with a badly sprained or perhaps broken ankle. We wish her a speedy recovery.

Below please find the full winter sports schedule. Till next time, stay safe and sportsmanlike.

UPDATE: coverage in the Record-Eagle!

2012-13 Frankfort Winter Sports

Pride of BC: Let’s Talk about Bullying in Schools

In Breaking, Education, Kid Stuff, Law & Order, Open Season on December 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm

An anti-bullying group for parents holds its first meeting tomorrow at Benzie High School’s SEEDS room at 6:30 pm. The group is a spinoff of the kids’ anti-bullying Pride group that formed earlier this year. All are welcome to come out and discuss how we can be nicer to each other. Tomorrow’s meeting will be facilitated by SEEDS coordinator Josh Stoltz.

Stoltz says the group will be a way to channel some energy that’s built up over this issue recently, and a way for parents to communicate with each other about their concerns and present them with a “unified voice” to school administrators. Local bullying incidents made the news this year.

Vickie Slater, who teaches dance through SEEDS, said Benzie High School students got the idea for their Pride group from a school with a similar group in Newaygo and took the initiative to make their own program. They have instigated “High Five Fridays,” where students high five each other in the hallways and each find five complimentary, positive things to say to five other students. They also discuss other teen issues, such as the homelessness rate among teens in the Traverse area.

A student-created performance that deals with teen issues such as drugs, suicide, and homelessness is planned for March.

For now, the teen Pride group is just at Benzie Central, but at least one student has expressed an interest in forming a Frankfort chapter. If enough students decide to get together Slater said she’ll help coordinate. “Things don’t usually take off or become successful unless the take responsibility for it,” Slater said.

What’s Eating the Local Food Movement?

In Breaking, Calendar, Education, On and off the Apron, The Mess Deck, Uncategorized on December 3, 2012 at 3:21 am

By Emily Votruba

EVENT Tuesday, December 4. The Northern Michigan Culinary Arts Community invites the public to a talk by Patty Cantrell, “Local Food: A Prescription for National Healing.” With free, locally sourced appetizers made by SEEDS kids and some of our area’s most talented chefs. 7 pm to 8:30 pm at the Frankfort Rec Center, across from the Frankfort Laundromat. 

It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home, the saying goes.

So why don’t you get more of your food from northern Michigan/Benzie County/Elberta producers? Serious question.

Maybe you’ve found it’s a lot more expensive. Maybe you haven’t found the items you want or need. Maybe you haven’t been able to find locally grown food at all.

For whatever reason, it’s crazy, says Patty Cantrell, “that it’s easier for a farm to send potatoes halfway around the country and back in a potato chip bag than it is to send them freshly dug out of the ground to a school down the road.”

Cantrell expounded on our country’s bizarre food-system “superhighway,” and the ways in which Michigan producers and distributors are working to restore sanity during a TED Talk she gave in February. Tomorrow night she’ll speak more about the hows and whys of local food at the Frankfort Rec Center, in a program put on by the Northern Michigan Culinary Arts Community (NMCAC), an educational nonprofit formed this year.

“I credit Patty with beginning the conversation about local food here,” says Suz McLaughlin, of Still Grinning Kitchens, one of the cofounders of NMCAC. “Farm-to-table, the farm-to-school program…the reason we now have companies like Cherry Capital Foods. It’s pretty much because of her.”

We’ve come a long way in the two decades Cantrell has spent finding ways for farmers to take side trips off the superhighway and provide for their own communities. During twelve years with the Michigan Land Use Institute, she created a marketing program for local food with a 10-county reach, developed the farm-t0-school network, and started a program to help farmers develop business skills. The movement has blossomed with the growing understanding that eating closer to home is healthier in every way.

It’s fitting that Cantrell will speak at the Frankfort Rec Center—after the Council on Aging moved the senior center out of the building, the center was developed as an “incubator kitchen” by McLaughlin and Jim Barnes, of Crystal Lake Catering Company. With a lot of elbow grease and their own funds, they improved the kitchen facilities with the dream of providing a place for food entrepreneurs to test their ideas and launch their businesses right here, in their own neighborhood.

With education and distribution systems in place like the ones Cantrell and NMCAC are building, it should someday be easier—and more cost effective all around—to buy an Elberta peach from Elberta than one from an industrial operation in Georgia.

“We are making our way back to each other, and moving forward as a result,” says Cantrell. Come see where the conversation leads tomorrow night.

Gov Watch: Bills to Take the Public Out of Michigan Education?

In Breaking, Education, Politics, Uncategorized on December 2, 2012 at 11:44 pm

By Emily Votruba

State legislators may soon vote on a set of bills that would make sweeping “emergency manager”–style changes to state public education, while making it easier to establish private and charter schools. The Benzie Democrats and Frankfort–Elberta Schools superintendent Tom Stobie have voiced their concern, as has Bloomfield Hills Schools superintendent Rob Glass, along with citizens such as Marvin Dunn, writing in the Lansing State Journal. The story broke out on the Daily Kos site November 28 first under the headline, “MICHIGAN: HOLY F*CKING SH*T. Spread the word on this NOW,” which was revised November 29 to “Michigan Public School System Being Destroyed. RIGHT NOW.” That post includes a phone script to aid those who wish to call their reps in opposition to the bills.

In his letter to reps Booher and Franz, published on the Benzie Dems website, Tom Stobie calls the bills “extremely troubling.”

House Bill 6004/Senate Bill 1358 (currently the same text) Would create a single, statewide school district under the Education Achievement Authority, similar to the Emergency Manager system just voted down in a referendum in the November election. The EAA would be managed by a governor-appointed agent to shut down underperforming schools. The EAA could sell or lease school districts’ unused buildings to charter or private schools without permission from local residents. The EAA would report directly to the governor rather than to the State Board of Education.

House Bill 5923 Allows for several new forms of charter and online schools, many of which can be created by the EAA. These schools may have selective enrollment/dis-enrollment policies—they don’t have to take all children in their neighborhood. The bill does not include any changes or increases in funding, but would draw from the same funding pool as community-governed public schools. Schools established under the EAA can be exempt from regular state education laws and requirements, such as the MEAP test.

Senate Bill 620 “The Parent Trigger” bill, passed by the Senate in June, now in Committee.  It allows a low-performing school to be changed to a so-called “conversion school” if a petition is signed by 51% of the teachers at the school and 51% of the parents/legal guardians of students in that school.

At post time, the bills are all with the House and Senate Education Committees.


Honorable Senator Darwin Booher State Capitol P.O. Box 30036 Lansing, MI 49909 Phone: 517-373-1725

Honorable Representative Ray Franz S-1385 House Office Building P.O. Box 30014 Lansing, MI 48909 Phone: 517-373-0825

School Band Concert Tonight

In Culture Bluffs, Education, Kid Stuff on May 10, 2012 at 10:53 am

Tonight! Spring Band Concert at 7 pm at the Franfort–Elberta High School cafetorium. The elementary 5&6 graders will open the show, making their debut performance, followed by the junior high band, then the high school band. Featuring songs from Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Anastasia, and some oldies but goodies. Arrive slightly early for a seat—this event is usually standing room only.

Kindergarten and Pre-K Roundup Time!

In Calendar, Education, Kid Stuff on April 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm

By Jennifer Wilkins, Head Start educator

Well, Parents, it’s that time of year. Time to start thinking about getting your little ones signed up for preschool and kindergarten.

Benzie County has many options for preschool. Benzie Central Elementary Schools house Head Start Programs that enroll 2 1/2- to 5-year-olds and Great Start Readiness Programs that enroll 4 year olds. Crystal Lake Elementary has a Head Start classroom and a Cooperative Preschool room. I am a teacher in the Great Start classroom at Platte River Elementary School, which also has a Head Start classroom; Betsie Valley Elementary has a Great Start Readiness Program, too.

Recruitment for next year’s class is happening now. Contact the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (NMCAA) in Traverse City at 231-947-3780 to register your child.

In addition, the Betsie Bay Cooperative Preschool, currently located at the United Methodist Church in Frankfort, can be reached at 231-352-6844. Their tuition is $85 a month for 3 days a week of instruction.

For children turning 5 before December 1, it’s kindergarten roundup time.  The schedule for Benzie Central Elementary Schools is: Read the rest of this entry »