Interlochen sustainability team receives grant from the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education
Dylan Kulik, sustainability farm manager at Interlochen, developed a plant cultivation project for Arts Academy students.
Dylan Kulik, sustainability farm manager at Interlochen, recently received a $500 grant from the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education to develop a plant cultivation project for Arts Academy students.
“The Plant Nutrient Experimentation Project is an opportunity for students to have a hands-on cultivation experience through a scientific, experimental lens,” Kulik said. Students in groups of three were assigned different nutrient conditions in which they grow spinach plants and compare cultivation results, discovering how abundances or shortages of certain soil nutrients affect plant growth.
“My intention for this project is to have students think about a ‘full diet’ of nutrients that plants can access in soil, just like we humans need a full diet to stay happy and healthy,” Kulik explained. “All of the students in Agricultural Science this spring will be able to learn in a hands-on setting, experimenting with live plants, different organic nutrient substances, and thinking about how ‘full diets’ in soils, for plants, and for us as consumers, ultimately have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing.”
Since 2016, when Interlochen's Board of Trustees pledged to create an environmentally friendly and sustainable campus, Interlochen has implemented a variety of sustainability initiatives. The R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden, which opened in 2017, has expanded over the years to encompass an 800-square-foot botanical laboratory and greenhouse powered by solar and heated with geothermal energy; three 800-square foot hoop houses focused on research and experimentation; a chicken coop; an aquaponics unit; an educational apiary with four beehives; a student-designed and installed fruit yard with an orchard, brambles, and a vineyard; and an outdoor community kitchen with a stone bread oven.
Under the leadership of Interlochen Director of Sustainability Emily Umbarger, the complex has been designated Certified Naturally Grown, a Monarch Waystation, a National Wildlife Federation Certified Schoolyard Habitat, and a Michigan Green School. It has also received several certifications from the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.
Umbarger has collaborated with colleagues across campus on several sustainability efforts, including the construction of a 100-foot composting facility and the facilitation of single-stream recycling; zero-waste dining products; water-bottle filling stations; low-flow showerheads, toilets, and sinks; and a high-efficiency dishwashing system.
In 2019, Interlochen Arts Academy was the only school in the state of Michigan to receive the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon School Award, which recognizes institutions that reduce their environmental impact, improve the health of their community members, and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.