Copper Country High Schools honored for
Torch Lake Superfund Monitoring Project

Contact: Jennifer Rogers; 517.327.5908;
Sarah Sant; 517.327.5907;
April 21, 2006

The Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics & Environmental Education of the Copper Country Intermediate School District is giving new meaning to excellence in education. The Center created an innovative environmental service learning program, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, where area high school students collect data on the recovery of the Torch Lake Superfund sites, help to educate the local communities, and learn the real meaning of ‘being a scientist.’

The Western Upper Peninsula Center is one of 30 recipients of the 2006 Education Excellence Awards, announced the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB). These programs will be honored Tuesday, May 9 at a luncheon in Lansing hosted by MASB and SET SEG School Insurance Specialists, the exclusive sponsor of this year’s awards.

“Student achievement is on the rise in Michigan. These local programs truly contribute to Michigan’s rigor, relevance and relationships in public education,” said Justin King, MASB executive director. “School districts across the state should look to these programs for leadership.”

Each school or district will receive a trophy and a metal street sign proclaiming it an “Education Excellence Winner.” Winners will also move to the second round of judging to determine if they are one of “Michigan’s Best”—with winners receiving a cash award.

Entries are judged by an independent panel of state education specialists. Winners are selected based on uniqueness, the critical need served and evidence of impact on student achievement. More than 200 entries were received from districts across the upper and lower peninsulas. The winners are listed in a searchable database on MASB’s Web site ( and in a directory mailed to every school district in the state.

Media representatives are welcome and encouraged to attend and enjoy the luncheon. Please call Jennifer Rogers or Sarah Sant at 517.327.5900 if you plan to attend.

Michigan Association of School Boards

2006 Education Excellence Award Winner—Copper Country County

Program Name: Torch Lake Project
Western UP Center for Science, Math & Environmental Education
Copper Country Intermediate School District
Category: Service Learning
Program Coordinators: Shawn Oppliger & Joan Chadde, 906.482.0331 or 906.487.3341

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked if any local schools would be interested in monitoring recovery of Torch Lake, five high schools in Copper Country answered the call. Since the fall of 2003, high school classes at Calumet, Chassell, Hancock, Dollar Bay-Tamarack City and Lake Linden-Hubbell have been monitoring the recovery of five locations within the Torch Lake Superfund Area. One hundred years of copper mining in the Keweenaw had left portions of the shorelines of Torch Lake, Calumet Lake and Lake Superior covered by millions of tons of stamp sand creating a hot, dry environment inhospitable of plant and animal life, and exposed to wind and water erosion.

Today, students conduct the monitoring as part of their coursework in chemistry, biology and environmental science classes. Students evaluate plant and bird diversity, rooting depth, soil fertility and biomass production. The EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provide technical assistance and an once-in-a-lifetime professional mentorship. This is a wonderful example of true service learning addressing a real community need and shows commitment to sustaining a powerful program over time. Everyone wins with ecological recovery—the students, the community and the planet!

Dennis Harbour
Copper Country Intermediate School District
809 Hecla St
Hancock, MI 49930
(906) 482-4250

Monitoring Ecological Recovery of the Torch Lake Superfund Sites: Photos Archive Web Page

Engaging HS Students in Monitoring Remediation of a Local Superfund Site


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