Ernst Community Classroom located @ 1580 Scott Lake Rd in Waterford, MI 48328

Ernst Community Classroom located @ 1580 Scott Lake Rd in Waterford, MI 48328

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cities & After-School Learning Organizations

Cities Should Embrace After-School Learning

Cities Play a Crucial After-School Role

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

OCPR (Update)

Madison Heights park gets do-over
By Bill Laitner Free Press Staff Writer
   Long the target of critics who said its parks are too far from where most taxpayers live, Oakland County Parks and Recreation has stepped up efforts to add facilities in the county’s populous southeast corner.
   On Oct. 1, the agency will begin a 25-year lease — at $1 a year — of the 38-acre Madison Heights nature preserve just south of 13 Mile and west of Dequindre.
   Budget-strapped Madison Heights laid off its naturalist two years ago and let maintenance of the preserve go.
   This month, county foresters are clearing fallen limbs from 1.3 miles of nature trails, felling dead trees, installing benches and repairing the nature center building, all work long overdue, county parks executive officer Dan Stencil said.
   “We’re giving those woods a haircut,” Stencil quipped.
   Madison Heights Mayor Ed Swanson, who walks in the woods every day with his shih tzu Tiramisu, said he’s delighted with the face-lift.
   “We couldn’t keep this up, but the county has budgeted $225,000 a year for it,” Swan-son said. The city had spent $150,000 a year there until July 2010, when all staff were laid off and the yearly budget cut to $8,000, City Manager Jon Austin said.
   The name of the area will change from the George W. Suarez Friendship Woods, after a former mayor of the city, to Red Oaks Nature Center at Suarez Friendship Woods.
   After adding the nature area, the county parks system will offer a swath of recreation options on 13 Mile Road just east of I-75, including the existing dog park, golf course and the Red Oaks Waterpark.
   Seven miles away in South-field, a 24-acre city park of soccer and baseball fields off Greenfield between 11 and 12 Mile roads, had received no upgrades for decades when the county took over its management in 2007, officials said.
   Starting Jan. 1, Red Oaks 
Nature Center visitors will need a vehicle parks sticker — $30 a year for county residents, $22 for seniors, $46 for nonresidents. Catalpa Oaks park is free at all times, Oak-land County Parks communications supervisor Desiree Stanfield said.
   The improvements make paying the Oakland County parks millage easier to justify for residents of the county’s southeast area, said a former critic of the parks agency, 43rd District Judge Chuck 
Goedert in Hazel Park.
   “I commend Oakland County Parks, and I am thrilled to see this,” said Goedert, who lives in Ferndale.
   At the Madison Heights nature center last week, volunteer Jean Linville, 81, scanned the log cabin building filled with nature exhibits.
   “We’re very happy the county is taking over because we know now this will stay open,” Linville said.
Kylie Fournier, 3; Margaret Over-ton, 2; Diana Fournier, 27, and Khloe Fournier, 1, all of Oak Park read on a platform at the top of atree at the Madison Heights Nature Center in Madison Heights.
   What: 16th annual open house —cider, doughnuts, hayrides, folk music, petting farm Where: Suarez Friendship Woods, 30300 Hales When: Noon-4 p.m. Sept. 30 Cost: Free, but donations, payable to City of Madison Heights Nature Center Open House, can be mailed to 300 W. Thirteen Mile, Madison Heights 48071.

Monday, September 10, 2012

OCPRC (Update: 2013 Budget)

County parks commission adopts $22.9 million budget for 2013; dog parks added

Monday, September 10, 2012 7:47 AM EDT
Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission recently adopted its 2013 operating budget of $22.9 million for its 13-park, 6,700-acre system.

 The 13-park system provides 65 miles of trails, day-use parks, campgrounds, dog parks, waterparks, golf courses, nature centers and a county market serving 1.6 million visitors annually. The parks system opened to the public in 1966.

Top projects for the commission next year include construction of dog parks at Groveland Oaks County Park near Holly and Waterford Oaks County Park in Waterford Township.

Of this amount, $8.6 million comes from charges for services and $2.7 million from planned use of balance. The remaining will come from the system’s one-quarter millage ($11.3 million), income from investments ($262,000), and delinquent taxes from prior years ($30,000). The fiscal year 2013 budget year runs Oct. 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013. The budget will now be forwarded to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners for its approval, as part of a county-wide budget process, at its Sept. 20 meeting.

“Currently Oakland County Parks operates three dog parks — one each in Lyon Township, Orion Township and Madison Heights. The demand for off-leash facilities from dog owners is high,” Executive Officer Dan Stencil said.

“Our Groveland Oaks campers have consistently asked in surveys for a dog park so their pets can exercise off-leash while their owners camp. Nationally, there is a trend of people camping with their pets. This was an area where we could improve customer service and increase revenue through camping fees and daily or annual vehicle permits for day-use visitors.”

A new Capital Improvement Management Plan and 15-year forecast was created to identify active fiscal year projects and forecast future projects. For 2013, the parks system has identified $2 million in active projects for design and construction including:

n Continued construction of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant funded trail projects at Lyon, Highland, Red and Rose Oaks county parks.

n Construction of a pavilion/retail vending space at Orion Oaks Dog Park.

n Installation/replacement of shade structures at Red Oaks Dog Park.

n Engineering of a new parking lot for Glen Oaks Golf Course.

n Replacement of a playground and construction of a bike rental equipment facility/waterslide ticket booth at Groveland Oaks County Park.

Construction projects that will be designed but not built in 2013 include: a boathouse and campground recreation pavilion for Addison Oaks County Park; a new water attraction at Waterford Oaks Waterpark; and a plan to repurpose an estate house at Independence Oaks-North.

Currently the parks system improves, maintains and manages more than 200 facilities, buildings and structures within its 6,700 acres. A new 15-year maintenance plan forecasts upkeep and improvements, including roofing, pavement repair, structural inspections, building heating and cooling systems, land management, painting and replacement of windows, doors, carpeting and flooring.

“Next year we will have $600,000 in active maintenance projects. Upkeep and improvement of existing facilities remains a consistently high priority,” Stencil said. “Our guests tell us in our biennial countywide recreation needs assessment surveys that they want clean, safe, well-maintained facilities.”

For 2013, planned maintenance projects include:

n Structural inspections of bridges, dams and towers at 13 parks.

n Design irrigation systems to replace aging equipment at Glen Oaks, White Lake Oaks and Springfield Oaks golf courses.

n Design electrical improvements to a section of the campground at Groveland Oaks County Park.

n Replacement of bleachers in the main event arena at Springfield Oaks County Park.

n Dock replacements at Independence Oaks County Park.

n Installation/replacement of shade structures at Red Oaks Waterpark.

n Improvements/repairs to the dam spillway at Springfield Oaks County Park in collaboration with the Charter Township of Springfield.

n Storm water improvements at Waterford Oaks County Park.

Stewardship projects for the coming year include continued wildlife surveys and management, invasive species removal, prescribed burns and habitat restoration.

Annual permits will remain at $30/Oakland County residents; $46/regular rate in 2013. The permits are good for unlimited entry to eight day-use parks, including three Dog Parks, free parking at Fourth of July Fireworks and the Oakland County Fair on Oakland County Parks Day. For the 11th year, Oakland County Parks Recreation and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have teamed up to offer a combined pass valid at 19 park locations at a cost of $48. The owner of a $175,000 home pays about $21 annually to acquire, improve and maintain parks.

For more information on the 2013 budget, go to

— Supplied by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SAVE the WINT NATURE CENTER! (Imagination & Innovation Needed)

News > Local News

Services cut from Wint Nature Center at Independence Oaks County Park WITH VIDEO

Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:16 AM EDT
By MONICA DRAKE; Twitter: @monica_adele
Wint Nature Center at Independence Oaks County Park will soon be a “visitor center” instead of a nature center after $234,400 was cut from its budget by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission.

The Wint Nature Center now runs on half of its previous budget, despite the voters approving a renewal of Oakland County Parks and Recreation’s 0.2415-mill property tax for the next 10 years. The money cut from the budget was added to the parks’ operating budget.

Manager of Parks and Recreation Sue Wells said, “We have 29 different budget centers in the park system, and with the shrinking property values, even though we have a millage, that money is less.”

The Wint Nature Center, which was built 27 years ago, is currently the only nature center at Oakland County Parks and Recreation after the Lyon Oaks Nature Center closed down about a year ago.

Recreation Program Supervisor and Parks Naturalist Lynn Conover said the booking of all interpretative services, such as field trips, outreach services, scout events and birthday parties, are on hold right now per an administrative directive.

“Folks seemed to be very disheartened about any sort of scaling back of services because they've come to depend on this facility as a place where they come to gain further knowledge of the natural world, help their children earn their scout badges, have their birthday parties and make memories,” said Conover. “We only have one full-time employee. In efforts to trim the budget, we've given up the cleaning crew. We've absorbed clerical along with operating the facility and trying to maintain the highest level of interpretive programming.”

The Nature Center is currently open to walk-in visitors 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The hours were cut this year from the previous hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to five Sunday.

Wells said the building will not close, but it will not be the historical model it had once been.

“We still want to provide for school groups. What that looks like, we don't specifically know. We're working that out right now,” Wells said. “There will be a naturalist who will be putting on programs. The programs won’t necessarily be housed in that facility, but we still want to provide quality education programs.”

Conover, who has worked for Parks and Recreation for 28 years, said it is increasingly challenging to deliver quality services at the same level with limited resources. Conover said, with less resources, there are less opportunities for field trips and other community activities.

“I have a very small and extremely dedicated, professional staff. Right now, we have four part-time staff and one full-time. At one point, there were five full-time here, and there was as many as eight or nine part-time staff,” said Conover.

Wells said she doesn't know why the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission decided to cut from the Wint Nature Center.

“It was a recommendation under Public Act 261, which is the public act that creates parks and recreation commission. (The parks and recreation commission) has to approve our budget, and then its approved by the county board of commissioners,” said Wells. “Last year, each budget center cut 10 percent of their budget. It's not like this is the only thing that has been looked at. Each supervisor has been trimming their budget each year.”

The Wint Nature Center currently still offers live reptiles, amphibian and fish exhibits; mounted displays of native wildlife such as coyotes and beavers; a feeding station for mammals and birds; and limited weekend family programs.

Conover said, “The building is an important structure, but I think what really makes memories for people are the relationships they have with Oakland County Parks employees and the services we deliver. We will continue to do our utmost to deliver the highest quality nature experiences so families can continue to build memories. That is definitely number one for us, and we’re trying to continue that despite very challenging circumstances.”

FYI — Interested businesses and individuals who would like to host a program or donate to the Wint Nature Center, call 248-858-0906. For individuals who want more information about the cut in funding for the Wint Nature Center or who would like to address the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, the next meeting is 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 4 at the Parks and Recreation administration office, 2800 Watkins Lake Road in Waterford Township. Wint Nature Center is located at 9501 Sashabaw Road  in Independence Township. Their new hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, call 248-625-6473 or visit

Contact Monica Drake at 248-745-4687 or email her at Find her on Twitter at monica_adele.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scouts Badge Day

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Weather Badge Day: rain or shine

Cub Scouts become weather wise at the Weather Belt Loop and Pin badge day on Saturday, March 24 from 10 a.m. - noon OR 2 - 4 p.m. Scouts learn weather safety plus make a weather vane and weather map.

While exploring at the Wint Nature Center, scouts are introduced to the water cycle and how clouds and rainbows form. Activities are held indoors and outdoors - be sure to dress accordlingly.

Badge days fulfill all requirements necessary for badges. Space is limited and come badges fill quickly.
Pre-registration is required. For details and to register call 248-625-6473.

The Wint Nature Center is located in Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston. Nature center information and other program offerings can be found at

See you rain or shine!

- Oakland County Parks and Recreation Wint Nature Center staff

Find us on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SMART OCPRC Footprint Enlarges "possibilities-thinking"

Farmers market to spruce up with a new name and new look
By Kathleen Gray Free Press Staff Writer
   Oakland County’s Farmers Market is on the verge of becoming simply the Oakland Market in June when management of the popular Waterford site is transferred to the county Parks and Recreation Department.
   The transfer has been in the works for two years, and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve the change in several committee meetings this week.
   The Parks and Recreation Department is a separate entity funded by its own millage, meaning the county won’t have the nearly $200,000 cost of operating and maintaining the property on its books. It also means that some improvements might be in store for the 57-year old market, which depends on regional vendors and farmers for produce, flowers, a variety of home-baked products and crafts.
   The parks department is looking at making the 14-acre site, which attracts 300,000 visitors 
a year, a part of the Water-ford Oaks Park and hopes to eventually create a trail between the two sites.
   “We’re looking at some cross-marketing opportunities and making people aware of other parks in the county,” said Dan Stencil, the department’s executive director. “But our biggest 
and first priority is going to be customer service and enhancing the experience for patrons.”
   Toward that end, there will be parking attendants at the market to help unsnarl traffic on busy summer Saturdays. And Stencil said he’s also working with community organizations, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, 
to earn community service awards — and maybe a little extra cash — by helping patrons cart their goods to their cars.
   The parks department also plans to spruce up the place with a fresh coat of paint and some colorful banners to more clearly identify the market’s attributes.
   The Oakland County Farmers Market is to become the Oakland Market when county Parks and Recreation takes over operations.

Something to inform our understanding

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

THAT'S a WRAP! (National Digital Learning Day 2012)

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21st Century Digital Learning Environments
Washington, Michigan 48094
Twitter: @digitallearning

February 7, 2012

Dear Jim,

What a day!  Thank you so much for your contributions to Digital Learning Day.  We are thrilled with the enthusiasm that so many educators, districts, and states across the country brought to this first ever Digital Learning Day.  Without the support and input from people like you, we could not have put together a program and resources that showed so much of the potential for digital learning to make a difference for students and teachers.

In addition to the President, Secretary of Education, Chairman of the FCC, and 17 governors joining the celebration, we had nearly 2 million students and 18,000 teachers specifically register for Digital Learning Day; and 39 states and the District of Columbia hosted their own versions of Digital Learning Day.  During the morning and afternoon webcasts, we consistently had 2,000 people involved consistently in the live chat; and thousands tuned in for the National Town Hall meeting.

We look forward to building upon the success of this first annual day and only increasing the resources, outreach, and partners for next year.  Thank you for the work you do every day to maximize the potential of digital learning for students and for dedicating the time and energy to work with us to raise awareness for Digital Learning Day. 

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Bob Wise
President, Alliance for Excellent Education
Governor of West Virginia, 2001–2005

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"The Web can turn the World upside down!"


After Recess: Change the World

A BATTLE between a class of fourth graders and a major movie studio would seem an unequal fight.
Damon Winter/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

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Readers’ Comments

So it proved to be: the studio buckled. And therein lies a story of how new Internet tools are allowing very ordinary people to defeat some of the most powerful corporate and political interests around — by threatening the titans with the online equivalent of a tarring and feathering.
Take Ted Wells’s fourth-grade class in Brookline, Mass. The kids read the Dr. Seuss story “The Lorax” and admired its emphasis on protecting nature, so they were delighted to hear that Universal Studios would be releasing a movie version in March. But when the kids went to the movie’s Web site, they were crushed that the site seemed to ignore the environmental themes.
So last month they started a petition on, the go-to site for Web uprisings. They demanded that Universal Studios “let the Lorax speak for the trees.” The petition went viral, quickly gathering more than 57,000 signatures, and the studio updated the movie site with the environmental message that the kids had dictated.
“It was exactly what the kids asked for — the kids were through the roof,” Wells told me, recalling the celebratory party that the children held during their snack break. “These kids are really feeling the glow of making the world a better place. They’re feeling that power.”
The opportunities for Web naming-and-shaming through caught my eye when I reported recently on sex traffickers who peddle teenage girls on I learned that a petition on had gathered 86,000 signatures calling for the company to stop accepting adult ads.
My next column was about journalists being brutalized in Ethiopian prisons. A 19-year-old college freshman in Idaho, Kelsey Crow, read the column and started a petition to free those journalists — and in no time gathered more than 4,000 signatures.
Does that matter? Does Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, care what a band of cyber citizens thinks of him? Skepticism is warranted, but so far petitions have seen some remarkable successes.
Ecuador, for example, used to run a network of “clinics” where lesbians were sometimes abused in the guise of being made heterosexual. A petition denouncing this practice gathered more than 100,000 signatures, leading Ecuador to close the clinics, announce a national advertising campaign against homophobia, and appoint a gay-rights activist as health minister.
The masterminds of the successful campaigns aren’t usually powerful or well-connected. Mostly, they just brim with audacity and are on a first-name basis with social media.
Take Molly Katchpole. Last fall, as a 22-year-old nanny living in Washington, D.C., she was peeved by a new $5-a-month fee for debit cards announced by Bank of America, with other banks expected to follow. She took an hour to write a petition, her first.
“After a month it had 306,000 signatures,” Katchpole told me. “That’s when the banks backed down.” Bank of America and other financial institutions withdrew plans for the fee.
Soon afterward, she started a second petition, protesting a $2 charge imposed by Verizon for paying certain bills online. In 48 hours it had attracted more than 160,000 signatures — and Verizon withdrew the fee.
Katchpole parlayed her successes into a job with a new advocacy group, Rebuild the Dream, which seeks to improve the economic well-being of middle-class families.
As for, it is growing explosively. Founded in 2007, it is a B Corporation — a hybrid of a for-profit company and a charity, seeking to make profits for social good — and began to soar a year ago. It is now growing by one million members a month.
“We’re growing more each month than the total we had in the first four years,” said Ben Rattray, 31, the founder. He said that 10,000 petitions are started each month on the site, and that each success leads to countless more copycat campaigns. has grown from 20 employees a year ago to 100 now, in offices on four continents. By the end of this year, Rattray plans to have offices in 20 countries and to operate in several more languages, including Arabic and Chinese. He recognizes that the site may be blocked in China, but shrugs.
“If ultimately we’re not getting leaders to ban our site, we’re not doing our job,” he said.
Meanwhile, what about those 14 kids in Wells’s fourth-grade class? I asked them what their next initiative on would be. They are still discussing options, but one possibility is to reduce waste by calling on companies to stop bombarding the public with telephone books and instead distribute them only to people who request them.
It’s absurd to think that 14 fourth graders could accomplish anything so sensible. But then again, they’ve already shown that the Web can turn the world upside down.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Digital Learning Goes Global!

Digital, Global Learning

Digital Learning Day was an inspiration. It has, for one, inspired me to write about three things I wish to see happen.
The organizers Alliance for Excellent Education defined digital learning as "any instructional practice using technology to strengthen student learning." Educators and policymakers throughout the United States watched and chatted online as experts share best practices and innovative classrooms showcased how they use technology. There was certainly a lot to cover.
The three things touched very lightly upon, but that I'd like to call out as important goals are:
Every student should have experiences working with experts and peers around the world on global issues. Students will be graduating into a global knowledge economy that is largely spurred by digital technologies. It's hard to consider authentic education without being digitally connected with the real world. Connect All Schools has a mission to link every American classroom with one abroad by 2016. It is an important and achievable goal. Steps to get started? See the professional development offered by organizations like iEARN or Taking IT Global.
Districts need to stop blocking websites that connect students to the larger world. Many schools cannot access sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, and many more. However well intentioned the policies that block social media are, they are also failing our students by limiting possibilities for learning about—and from—the world. The right way to approach student activity online is through better education. To start, digital and media literacy help students think critically and act responsibly. Authentic, real-world projects compel students to explore and engage in all the right ways.
Digital and global learning should be interwoven in pre-service education, trainings, mentoring, continuing education, and evaluations. We cannot realize excellence in digital learning if teacher professional development is not part of the equation. Chances are, the world will not become less digital nor less global in our lifetimes. Anyone responsible for a young person's education needs to be a digital citizen.
Many of the excellent teachers I meet every day lament these shortcomings. Let's do right by them—and by our rising generation—and meet these goals in a hurry.