By Benjamin Tupper

Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum will host the Wolverine Pathways scholars next week. The scholars are students from Ypsilanti and Southfield, Mich., public school districts. Children’s ed intern Ben Tupper writes about this exciting new University of Michigan program and what it means for the Arb and Gardens—and  the participating students.
Summer is a busy time for everyone at Matthaei and the Children’s Education department is no exception. We have made the transition from running school programs to summer programs and are preparing fervently for the arrival of the Wolverine Pathways scholars. Some around Matthaei may have heard from me about potential involvement with the program, but for those who have not, here is a little summary of this brand new initiative.
Designed and led by Dr. Robert Jagers (developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan’s  School of Education) the Wolverine Pathways program launched in January and works with students who live within the Ypsilanti and Southfield public school districts. University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel has called the Wolverine Pathways program an “important step for the University of Michigan as we continue to look for ways to identify talented students and cultivate U-M applicants from all parts of our state.”
The program itself is free for students and families. Each student who completes the program, and is admitted to U-M, will be awarded a full-tuition scholarship for four years. The Pathways program features hands-on and project-based learning activities that extend and integrate core English-Language arts, math, and science content. One of the other major goals of the Wolverine Pathways program is to give young people early opportunities that will help them see possibilities and cultivate their fullest potential. It also acts as a way to give youth a sense of what it can be like to be a student at the University of Michigan.
Given the goals and the direction of the Wolverine Pathways program, taking advantage of all that Matthaei-Nichols has to offer makes sense. The education department works with students year round, both leading and designing hands-on learning experiences that also bring in projects-based pedagogies. The Children’s Education team has been busy over the past two months building a program that will hopefully take advantage of our incredible site, knowledgeable staff, and to scaffold an educational experience that is both relevant and connected to youths lives.
Docents in training last month in preparation for the programming that Ben and
the children’s ed team at Matthaei will implement during the Wolverine Pathways
scholars visit in July.
The Wolverine Pathways scholars will be at Matthaei for four days (2 days with groups for Ypsilanti and 2 days with groups from Southfield). One of the goals of the program design was to make sure the experience ties into the mission and vision of Matthaei while also giving youth the chance to bring in their own lived experiences to the program. To do this, the team has designed two different projects for the 10th and 7th graders based on their experiences at Matthaei. The 7th graders will help develop and create a citizen-science water-monitoring project, an interpretive guide book to aquatic testing, or blog posts that can be used to provide insight into their experiences here and provide information for future youth groups. The 10th graders will be investigating what stewardship means, based on their own experiences, and how/if their trip to Matthaei has changed and helped inform their own personal stewardship goals and visions.
A view of Fleming Creek at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.The creek is
one of the sites that Ben and the Matthaei-Nichols children’s ed team will use
for a water-quality monitoring project with the Wolverine Pathways scholars.
It is going to be an exciting four days, filled with fun, adventure, lots of youthful energy, and I am sure some stressful moments. I will be following up after the program is over to update everyone on what happened, how it worked, and how it helps to inform the design process. One of the things that interests me in exploring is the iterative design process the Children’s Education team has undergone to get to the point of implementation. It is always interesting in education design work how the planned learning goals play out and if they are aligned with youths’ experiences. The second installation of this blog will be about the design process and how implementation went! Thank you to everyone who has been involved in getting ready to provide a wonderful educational experience for these youth and for sharing your expertise and wisdom with prospective U-M students!
Ben Tupper, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education with a concentration in science education. He is also pursuing his museum studies graduate certificate. His research interests include teaching and learning in informal science education settings with a specific focus on issues in the field of environmental education.

Ben Tupper