Our Blog

  • Business suit iconI love WMAES. This school is tremendous and I couldn't imagine sending my son anywhere else.
    -- Jennifer Dietrich

Toys for Tots

Our staff and students demonstrated compassion over the past few weeks by collecting 514 toys to be donated to Toys for Tots. We have collected toys in the past, but this year we quadrupled the amount that we normally collect. Compassion is our Character Education theme for the month, and our students are definitely portraying this trait with their actions. Adam Wong, a first grade student in Mr. Braun's class, collected 100 toys! Check out the article from Fox 17.

Several other students brought in dozens of toys at a time as well.

Also, WMAES was part of WZZM 13's School Spirit Challenge, which is a friendly competition among area schools to see who can collect the most toys. WMAES placed 5th out of almost 50 schools! Check out the video clip from Friday, when we donated our toys.

We are very proud here at WMAES, but more importantly, we are certain that our compassionate actions will make many children in our community very happy this holiday season. Our goal for next year: collect 1,000 toys!

Social Studies Project for 1st Graders

This month in social studies, the first graders learned about identifying public issues and were challenged to work together to make positive changes in their communities. This project tied in easily with our character education trait of the month, Responsibility. Two of the classes chose to plant tulip bulbs on the Aquinas College campus and one class will act as the "light police" reminding teachers and students to conserve energy by turning off lights when not in use. The students learned the importance of improving their communities through service and volunteerism and were even highlighted in the Grand Rapids Press!  

Visual Arts Class Makes Naturally Dyed Yarn

It’s harvest time here at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science (WMAES), and we aren’t talking about vegetables...we’re talking about native wild plants to make natural dyes.  The Visual Arts A class has been working collaboratively with Miss Holly (Env. Science) and Mrs. Buist (Visual Arts) to collect plants, make dyes, dye wool yarn and finally use the yarn to make a coil basket.  It’s all in an effort to incorporate the environmental aspect into all areas of the school curriculum and we are all having a blast.

The Coil Pot originated in the country of Africa but has also been used by many other cultures and throughout time. Originally these baskets were woven from reeds and grasses, but for our project we are using wool yarn that has been hand dyed by the students.  

Some of the plants harvested for dyes were; Spearmint, Sunflower, Zinnia flower, Sassafras leaves, Goldenrod, Beet leaves and the root, Pokeweed and Wild grapes. The plants were picked on Monday and prepared for use in the dying process.  On Wednesday the students  boiled the plant parts in water for about 45 minutes.  Finally they soaked the yard pieces in the dyes overnight and the yarn was ready to use by Friday.  Students will spend the next week making the baskets, which will be on display later this year.  Here a a few plants that make a good natural dye.

Sunflower, Chamomile, Yarrow, Zinnia, Goldenrod

Orangish Color:
Yellow bedstraw, Madder, Yellow cosmos, Coreopsis, Dahlia

Marigold, Black walnuts, Sassafras leaves,  Black eyed susan

Indigo, Woad

Pokeweed, Wild grape, Beets


Read more: Visual Arts Class Makes Naturally Dyed Yarn

First Grade Butterflies!

This fall, the first grade at WMAES is growing BUTTERFLIES! Each class is caring for about 30 caterpillars by picking milkweed leaves from our prairie and ensuring that they are all well fed. Just like the story, these guys really are "very hungry"! The students were very excited last week to enter their classroom and see that a few of them had already formed a chrysalis! The caterpillars will stay inside a chrysalis for 14 days and then emerge as monarch butterflies. Our classes will then release them so they can begin their journey to Mexico for the winter. It has been amazing watching this natural wonder take place right inside our classrooms.

The students will also be taking part in the symbolic migration project sponsored by Journey North. The classes will be creating and decorating their own butterflies, writing notes in Spanish, and mailing their creations to students in Mexico. We will then be able to track their "migration" by going online and seeing pictures of our butterflies with our new Mexican friends. The students are learning a lot about life cycles, seasonal changes, migration, and the importance of joining with students in other regions to ensure the livelihood of this beautiful species!  

Vegetable Garden "Dirt" Cups with Ranch Dressing

Help your kids create a yummy garden snack- just like the ones we grow here at WMAES !


  • 3 Cups Pumpernickel Pretzels or Dark-Corn-Chip Crumbs
  • 2 Cups Light Ranch Dressing  
  • Variety of Vegetables for Dipping (Our suggestions are mini carrots with tops, pea pods, mini sunburst squash, celery sticks, and green beans)
  • Clear Snack Cups

First crush the pumpernickel pretzels or dark-corn chips until mixture resembles dirt.
Pour a layer of  “dirt” crumbs into the bottom of the snack cup.

Pour dressing over crumbs, then add a thicker layer of dirt crumbs on top.
To finish off this tasty treat, place vegetables in to dirt crumbs cup or serve them on the side to dip.



Breathing Trees Craft

We realize as the summer winds down, finding activities to keep you children entertained and active can be daunting. Have no fear- we’ve found a great craft to keep your little ones outdoors and learning! A hot summer’s day is the perfect time to observe how trees take in carbon dioxide and let out oxygen.


For this craft you will need:

  • String
  • A tree with leaves that are low to the ground
  • Clear plastic bag
  1. On a sunny day, use a piece of string to tie a clear plastic bag around a clump of green leaves on the end of a tree branch. Leave it for an hour or two.
  2. When you come back, the inside of the bag should be coated with drops of water. Why? Instead of a nose and mouth, plants have lots of tiny holes, or stomata, in their leaves through which they breathe.  Be sure to explain to your youngsters that just like our own breath, plant exhalation is full of moisture, which condenses on the bag as it's heated by the sun. The same principle is at work when you fog up a mirror with your breath.


"Breathing Trees | Science Craft Projects for Kids | FamilyFun." FamilyFun Crafts, Activities, Recipes & Other Ideas for Kids & Parents and More Family Fun. Web. 08 July 2011. .


What Do Recycling Numbers Mean?

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) implemented a coding system in 1988 to help recyclers determine types of plastics when sorting. On most plastic packaging, you’ll find a recycling logo with a number, one to seven, stamped in the center. The numbers in the triangle indicate the grade of plastic or the resin ID code.

·     Code 1- PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

Found in: soft drink, water, and beer bottles; peanut butter and salad dressing containers; vegetable oil containers; and oven-safe food trays. This is the easiest of plastics to recycle and it can be remade in to bottles and polyester fibers.

·     Code 2- HDPE (high-density polyethylene)

Found in: milk jugs, juice, shampoo, detergent bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners. This plastic is also easily recyclable and in to bottles or bags.

·     Code 3- PVC or V (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl)

Found in: clear food packaging; wire jacketing; medical equipment; siding; windows, piping. This plastic is difficult to recycle and is an environmental and health threat.

·     Code 4- LDPE (low-density polyethylene)

Found in: squeezable bottles; bread, dry cleaning, and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing. Used for different types of wrapping and bags, this type can be recycled in to more of the same.

·     Code 5- PP (polypropylene)

Found in: some yogurt containers; syrup bottles; ketchup bottles; caps; straws; medicine bottles. This plastic can be recycled in to fibers.

·     Code 6- PS (polystyrene)

Found in disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carryout containers; CD cases. Polystyrene or Styrofoam is difficult to recycle because it is bulky, yet very lightweight.

·     Code 7- Other

Found in:  bulletproof materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod, computer cases; signs and displays. These materials are not readily recyclable.


Neighborhood News July 2011


Seven Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a balanced diet, but getting kids (particularly picky eaters) excited about healthy food isn’t always easy. But the good news is its not impossible. Here are a few sneaky ways you can get your kids to not only eat more veggies, but enjoy them too!

1. Hide nutritious ingredients in every recipe.  Add V8 vegetable juice to your meatloaf, sneak vegetable purees into pancakes and mashed potatoes, incorporate a few more veggies, such as carrots, kale, onion, and celery, into your tomato sauce. Your kids will continue to gobble down their favorite foods and be none the wiser!

2. Make it fun. Try to come up with some creative names for the healthy food your child may be avoiding. When they ask what’s for dinner, instead of saying, “Chicken and broccoli,” try saying, “Dragon meat with magic forest.” Or, get creative with the plate and arrange the food to make a funny face. You could even try having a “picnic” on the living room floor. It sounds goofy, but injecting a little fun and whimsy in to each meal will minimize meal time drama and result in more clean plates.

3. Mix it up. Combine vegetables with another food your children likes. For example, toss pasta with some peas and carrots. Or, simply substitute healthier ingredients in the same meals they’re used to, such as low-fat cheese or whole-wheat pasta.

4. Serve the veggies first. By the time dinner rolls around, your kids are probably hungry enough to eat just about anything. So begin the meal with a serving of vegetables before the meat or starch. Try starting off with a small salad with chopped peppers, carrots, olives, and their favorite dressing

5. Grow your own. If you have room for a garden in your backyard, or even just a few potted plants on the back porch, let each child be in charge of tending to a different vegetable. After working hard to make sure their plants grow strong, your child will be more excited about enjoying the fruits of their labor.

6. The two-bite rule. Sometimes, kids just really don’t like the flavor of vegetables. Their palates are still developing, so more sophisticated flavors- like those of broccoli or Brussels sprouts- really do taste yucky in a young mouth. So agree on a two-bite rule. Tell your child if they don’t like a food after two bites, it’s OK not to eat it. The important thing is to at least to try something new. Just knowing that they won’t be forced to clean their plate might be enough motivation to try just a little. And who knows, they may be surprised to find they really enjoy their veggies!

7. Get excited. Your children will be more excited about healthy foods if they see you enjoying healthy foods. So make a big deal over the spinach salad. Ooh and aah over asparagus. Rub your belly when you take a bite of beats.


 Neighborhood News July 2011

Oyster Restoration

Hurricane Ike devastated the oyster population in Galveston Bay. West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science students helped in the effort to restore the oyster population by bagging oysters. Check out the video below to see what they were doing on their last day of the service project.

Read more: Oyster Restoration

Coastline Clean Up

For many of the students, yesterday was their favorite day of service so far. The most exciting part is, the team has started realizing how they can apply all of the education they have received at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science. Yesterday they were able clean-up and protect a neighborhood marsh area on Galveston Island.  They removed debris from the hurricane, worked on a walking path, and stained signs. Check out the video below to see the team in action. Today will be the last day of service at the Galveston Bay Foundation, and students will be doing oyster restoration.


Care for the Coastline Day 1

On the first day of the Care for the Coastline trip, students took a kayak tour with Artist Boat around Galveston Island State Park. They then picked up trash along the shores of the park. Watch the YouTube videos below to see how their first day went. The first video was taken at the park, and students talked about what trash they've found, and the people they've met. The second video was taken at the end of the day, and students, along with one of the chaperones, tell us about lessons learned throughout the first day.


Before the Project

West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science students left for their service project in Galveston, TX on Thursday. Before leaving, a few participants were asked why they were interested in going on the trip, and what they were hoping to get out of it. Some students had personal reasons for helping out, and others just wanted to feel they are part of making this country a better place. Check out the video below to hear more from our amazing WMAES students! 

Service Learning Trip

West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science students enjoyed an exciting opportunity, thanks to our management company Choice Schools Associates, and many other local Grand Rapids businesses. 13 students were given the opportunity to experience the environmental impact caused by human activity at the New York Adirondack Park. The students were juniors and seniors at WMAES who have kept up their grades, and avoided disciplinary problems throughout the year. Students left Saturday, April 28, and arrived in Chicago, where they departed on the Amtrak for New York. The trip lasted nine days, April 28 through May 8. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was filled with many exciting adventures. 

 Upon arriving in New York, students went for a hike. The following day, students visited the Up Yonda Farm, an Interpretive Center, where they assembled butterfly nets, worked on the wood chipping trail, and later experienced team building exercises. On Tuesday, the students participated in aquatic invasive species removal and storm drain stenciling at the East Shore of Schroon Lake Association. The following two days were spent at the Adirondack Museum, where students categorized artifacts and plant species, as well as helped with painting and assisting with outdoor trail and building maintenance. On the students' last full day in New York, they assisted the Wild Center of Tupper Lake with removing Scotch Pine invasive seedlings. Before leaving New York, Saturday night, students participated in an outdoor survival hiking trip. 

Not only was the Service Learning Trip an amazing opportunity for WMAES students, but it also helped them develop personal characteristics and self-mindfulness. The trip promoted self-reliance, while instilling the value of stewardship in each student. Valuable leadership skills were gained, as well as a strengthening in communication skills, and the team building exercises helped students learn to function as an integral part of a team. 

Thank you so much, West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science Students, for caring about the world. Removing one carbon footprint at a time!

Open House

West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science will be having a Spring Open House tomorrow, March 29th, from 4:30-7pm. Do you have any friends, family, or co-workers in search of a school for their children? If so, please tell them about our Open House. This will be a great way to tour the campus, meet the teachers, and enroll for next year.

British Educators Visit WMAES

On Wednesday, February 23 from 12:30-2:30pm, a group of British educators, along with Tim Odykirk and Dr. Phil Lundquist from the Central Michigan University (CMU) Center for Charter Schools, will be visiting West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science. This group of 10 educators has come from Hull, England with expertise in the areas of Sciences, Mathematics, Geography, Business, and English.  In England, they teach students from the ages of 11-18.  They will be taking a tour of our school, and speaking with teachers and students along the way.  CMU has brought British educators to Michigan to visit their charter schools for the past seven years.  This year is not the first time CMU has chosen our school as a host to their visitors.  This recognition is yet another example of how the hard work our staff and students put in on a daily basis pays off!

Read more: British Educators Visit WMAES

Join Us For Winter Fun!

West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science's winter programs have always been successful, but none have been as exciting, educational, and fun as the survival camp.  With nearly 35 participants, the forest was crackling with excitement and fires.  Each "survivor" was responsible for making a snow/stick shelter, starting a fire, boiling water, and making hot chocolate for their group.  Watching the children do all these activities, and seeing how easily it all came to them, might have lead you to believe they've always lived in the wilderness.  They took charge of the situation, and did what they needed to do to survive -- they worked together.  Here is what the mother/daughter team thought of the evening.  "Snowshoeing was fun and building our own fire was challenging.  We would definitely do it again, maybe for an all-nighter?  Thanks again for a wonderful time".  We will see about that all-nighter next year. 

We work really hard to make sure that all of our participants, young and old, learn a thing or two at these events while also making them fun and challenging.  If you would like to see what all the excitement is about, you should consider bringing your family to one of the many programs we have scheduled for the rest of the winter.  Hope to see you there! 

National School Choice Week

On January 23-29, schools around the country will be raising awareness of the failing education system, and build support for school choice.  National School Choice Week was created as a time for media and the public to hear this message.

A variety of school reform organizations help promote this, and there is no one organization behind the effort.  Many events will be taking place around the country during this week regarding the school choice movement.  For more information on National School Choice Week, please click here.


Winter Programs Starting Now!

The first winter program at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science is taking place on Tuesday, December 7, 2010. It will be a Full Moon Hike w/ Telescopes. Join us to explore the ecosystems in winter by the light of the moon. Play some moonlight tag along the way and observe the moon and stars with our new telescopes. We’ll have a roaring campfire in the woods to warm up by and have some hot cocoa.

WMAES families are free. The public is welcome, so invite friends! They will have to pay $3 if they bring their own snowshoes, or $5 to rent some. For more information on this and other winter programs going on in the next few months, click here.

WMAES Featured This Week on FOX 17

A few weeks ago, we told you that WXMI FOX 17 visited West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science because we were selected as West Michigan’s School of the Week. Mike Avery, a FOX 17 news anchor, went to WMAES to interview students and staff. The piece he did is airing this week. If you miss any of the segments, you can find them online at http://bit.ly/c13IKx.

Congratulations WMAES staff & students!

WMAES Teacher Hosted at ArtPrize

Dorothy Dorney, art teacher at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science, is being hosted at the Open Concept Gallery in this year’s ArtPrize. The Open Concept Gallery is located in the Trade Center building at 50 Louis St. NW in downtown Grand Rapids. It displays experimental, historical and unique presentations of aesthetic, social, political and environmental issues. The main gallery is one of the most distinctive exhibition spaces in the city.

ArtPrize is an annual art competition held in downtown Grand Rapids, started by Rick DeVos in 2009. The winner of this competition is decided solely by public vote. This year, ArtPrize ends Oct. 10, and the winner of the contest will be announced Oct. 6.

You can click here for a detailed description of Ms. Dorney’s piece, pictured below.


Senior Spotlight

West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science would like to congratulate Danielle Rosa for being accepted to Central Michigan University (CMU). CMU is the authorizer for WMAES. Miss Rosa also received CMU's Academic Honors Scholarship. She will be attending CMU next fall, and is the first WMAES graduate to be attending the university in several years. Way to go Danielle!

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