“Everything we do in STREAM school is for the public benefit. Students begin to feel like they have a voice, and that they have the opportunity to share meaningful knowledge with the community.” Ted Maleyft, STREAM Science Instructor

Sometimes, the best classroom is not inside a school, but knee-deep in a muddy creek about 20 minutes away or far inside a lush, green forest intensely observing the ecological impacts of a city nearby. Either way, students of STREAM School at Hamilton Middle School are beginning to extend their idea of learning beyond taking notes at a desk.

With the help of teachers like Ted Malefyt and the Outdoor Discovery Center, a non-profit in Holland that specializes in conservation efforts, students are able to absorb important information by investing quality time in their local environments.

STREAM School students dip into lakes to test the local water supply for purity alongside eco-professionals, investigate within ponds for the growth and development rates of fish, and even take a stand by educating community leaders on the importance of keeping the Macatawa Watershed free of contamination from soil erosion.

“We provide opportunities for students to develop a positive relationship with the natural world,” Ted says. “We teach them the personal responsibility of what it means to be a global citizen, to identify with being part of a world community and to understand their actions contribute to building that community's values and practices.”

STREAM School connects big picture issues such as environmentalism and local stewardship with the everyday academic concepts they also learn in science class. Combining these subject matters allows students to better understand their own environmental footprint and help them become eco-ambassadors. 

“I love getting to explore the area at my own pace,” says seventh-grade student Coryn Pratto. “I know why nature is so valuable to us, and why we should protect it.”

After students collect their research, they are encouraged to share their project findings with community leaders in hopes of inspiring adults. These first-hand experiences help them feel more confident with public speaking, research and overall in their subjects at school.

“I feel like I am getting much better in science class specifically, because I get to touch everything and be outside in the environment,” seventh-grade student Sydney Wedeven says. “It’s so much easier to understand because it’s right in front of you.”

Skills such as collaboration, communication, and personal responsibility are specifically highlighted during projects. Students demonstrate progress on application of these skills when they present their findings to the community. Venues for these presentations have included Hope College, local furniture business Haworth, and the Outdoor Discovery Center. 

“Everything we do in STREAM school is for the public benefit,” Ted says. “Students begin to feel like they have a voice, and that they have the opportunity to share meaningful knowledge with the community.”

As middle school students, presenting to the community can feel very intimidating, but they are up for the challenge.

“It is very difficult, but it helps in the long run because I feel like I am getting better at applying the knowledge we learn in STREAM School,” says seventh-grade student Jeff Haveman.

While making connections with the outside world and their school curriculum, students find value in exploring the sights, smells and feels of their local environments.

“As a result, they are so much more excited to come to school and learn more about how they can truly make an impact on our world,” Ted says. 

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“The ranch has opened up such creativity for our teachers. We can start to think of different ideas for putting our curriculum into practice. Teachers kind of get to be kids again!” —Danielle Snoeyink, Rose Park Elementary School Teacher

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“Volunteering honors Martin Luther King Jr. because he said anybody can be great because anybody can serve. It show our part by serving the community.” —Evan, GHAPS student

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