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May 9, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – About 55 sixth-grade students from Morenci (Michigan) Middle School enjoyed a five-hour field trip May 1 at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse, catching insects, learning about rain gardens and vernal pools, and coming to appreciate the value of water and the River Raisin watershed.
They were taking part in a new program, The River Raisin Water Festival, hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and organized in collaboration with the River Raisin Institute, the River Raisin Watershed Council, and Lenawee Intermediate School District. Underwriters for the festival were Anderson Development Company, General Federation of Women’s Club, and Rotary International.
Corinne Sanders, OP, and Patricia Benson, OP, working with the planning committee, coordinated the event on the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse Campus. Students moved through a number of inside and outside learning centers, “experiencing topics that are intended to inspire us to protect, preserve, and enhance the River Raisin, its tributaries, and the land around it,” Sister Corinne said.
Topics included Habitat Restoration, Marsh Bird Management, Macroinvertebrates, Vernal Pools, River Raisin Plant Fun, Rain Gardens, Vermicomposting (composting with worms), and Where Water Flows.
Students and chaperones alike were quick to tell of the highlights of their experience of the Water Festival and what they learned from it. “It’s been fun going through the wild areas and learning about the bugs and flowers,” said Dea Ewald, a student. “The bugs were the most interesting – I used to be scared of them.” Her classmate, Jordan Watkins, also appreciated the bugs, especially the crayfish and dragonflies, and learned about camouflage.
Caroline Stuck, a substitute teacher at Morenci and a chaperone, learned about rain gardens and hopes to build one at home.
Sister Pat, a Board member of the River Raisin Institute, said the Institute has held a similar program, the Lake Erie Water Festival, at the Motherhouse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters in Monroe, Michigan, for three or four years. Sister Pat suggested expanding the program into Lenawee County. “We just wanted to have this for our students in Lenawee County,” Sister Pat said. “We feel it’s a good exposure to what’s good for the watershed and the future.”
Sister Pat and Sister Corinne worked with Brittany Leick, Program Coordinator for the River Raisin Institute, who recruited the presenters and invited school participation. Planning for the event began in October 2018.
Sister Corinne said about 45 volunteers were involved in the program, including the nine presenters and their assistants. Among the volunteers were Adrian Dominican Sisters, who accompanied the students to the learning centers throughout the campus and enjoyed the presentations with the students.
Sister Corinne was most excited by the small groups of students who attended the presentations together. “There were 10 to 12 in each group, which gave them high quality small group experiences,” she said. “The students were very inquisitive and asked good questions.”
Feature photo: Elaine Johnson, former Permaculture Specialist for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, gives a presentation on rain gardens.
April 22, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The statement below was issued on Earth Day 2019 by the leadership teams of five congregations of Catholic Sisters whose members have lived and ministered throughout the State of Michigan for 564 years: Dominican Sisters of Adrian (since 1886); Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids (since 1877); Home Visitors of Mary, Detroit (since 1949); Servants of Jesus, Detroit (since 1974); and Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe (since 1845).
As leaders of congregations of Catholic Sisters whose members have lived and ministered in the State of Michigan for a collective 564 years, we call on our State Senators, Representatives, and Governor to enact legislation aimed at safeguarding our drinking water and protecting the precious God-given gift of fresh water that is our Great Lakes.
We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating quality of drinking water throughout our state, particularly as it impacts children and the most vulnerable. Exposure to lead and contamination by PFAS, toxic cyanobacterial blooms, and other pollutants are placing the health of millions of residents in our state and the integrity of the world’s greatest body of fresh water increasingly at risk.
We urge support for Governor Whitmer’s proposed Drinking Water Supplementals, which would provide $180 million in one-time infrastructure-improvement funds to promote safe drinking water. The funds would be used to replace lead pipes, enable schools to install filtered water-bottle filling stations, support PFAS remediation, and for water system optimization and local asset-management planning to help prioritize water infrastructure maintenance.
We also urge support for the Agricultural Pollution Bill (Senate Bill 247/House Bill 4418), which aims to protect the Great Lakes from waste produced by factory farms (also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs). The legislation would ban the application of manure, fertilizer and other livestock operations waste, like E. coli, hormones and antibiotics, on frozen or snow-covered ground – a practice that leads to waterway contamination.
Water is a precious gift from God to all of creation and, as Pope Francis has written, “a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights” (Laudato Si’, 30). We urge our elected leaders in Lansing to do all they can to safeguard and protect our state’s cherished waterways and drinking water.