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Kalamazoo Math and Science Institute Expands Minds, Opportunities

kmsi students conduct water studyMore students, more field trips, more opportunities to explore science through hands-on activities. Now in its third year, the Kalamazoo Math and Science Institute has continued to expand its learning opportunities for rising Kalamazoo Public Schools ninth graders. 

This year, the intensive math and science program expanded to five weeks — having started as a one-week pilot in 2021 — and provided students with five field trips — to the City of Kalamazoo Water Reclamation Plant, the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Food Hub and Innovation Center, Kalamazoo County’s River Oaks Park, the Kalamazoo Nature Center, and The Kalamazoo Promise Building — where students participated in science in their community with a focus on water quality in the Kalamazoo area, said Kristen Miller, the KPS math and science coordinator, who helped design the program. 

Students worked with drones and Sphero robots, and studied water quality and the health of the Kalamazoo River and its surrounding environments, testing for dissolved oxygen levels and examining biodiversity among macroinvertebrates. Students also studied the health of environments for Monarch butterflies and studied the issue of stormwater runoff. 

Sign-up for the 2024 Kalamazoo Math and Science Institute Will Open in the Spring

Ethan Katz, who will be a freshman at Kalamazoo Central in the fall, said he was attracted to the program because he wanted to earn the half credit in science that the program offers, but “I also thought it would be fun learning and I want to know more about science.” 

kmsi water studyKMSI is a collaborative effort between KPS and the Michigan Colleges Alliance, a consortium of the 14 top private colleges in the state. KPS teachers Megan Doorlag and Susan Oesterle designed this year’s program with Jason Raddatz from Marshall Public Schools, who works with MCA. The program helps prepare rising ninth graders for the rigors of high school — especially in the areas of biology and algebra, Raddatz said. 

“Those seem to be tricky stumbling points for kids when it comes to graduating from high school and moving on to college,” he said. Raddatz said to find success, students really have to learn how to work together with people they may not know. 

“It’s a high-stakes, academically rigorous program but you can see kids are having fun doing it,” Raddatz said. “That’s the difference when you’re able to take kids outside of the traditional classroom environment and mix them with peers with similar interests.” 

Doorlag said what makes KMSI unique is that it affords students that rare chance “to try out real scientific research before they even get into high school.” Students not only work with scientific instruments while following the scientific process, but they also work alongside college professors and students, “which opens the door to real, natural conversations about college.” 

The field trips were essential learning experiences, because “the KMSI scholars became more knowledgeable about their community and how science impacts it,” Doorlag said. 

Miller said the hope is to grow the program over the next few years and to increase student participation. 

Oesterie said the learning opportunities go far beyond math and science skills. 

“They also develop many soft skills that are so necessary for their futures, such as problem-solving, effective communication, teamwork, leadership, adaptability, time management, creativity and negotiation skills.”