Groundswell to accept National Innovative Education Award

Courtesy /

Courtesy /

Jenny Adkins

Groundswell, located in the College of Education at Grand Valley State University, accepted the National Innovative Education Award and received $25,000. At its heart, Groundswell is a coalition of community partners that fosters environmental learning, providing opportunities to students grades K-12. 

The annual award is for five nonprofits throughout the United States and Canada that are advanced in environmental STEM research as well as youth empowerment. 

The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) partners with Underwriter Laboratories (UL) where they launched the award in 2014 in order to invest in programs that represent educational learning and community engagement with the environment. The program needed to be innovative to qualify; essentially, how is the program being presented? 

Furthermore, Groundswell is funded and receives financial support through Grand Valley’s College of Education, the Wege Foundation, Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, and Baldwin Foundation.

“Groundswell at GVSU is governed by an advisory council that is made up of nearly 30 different community organizations, which is what provides Groundswell the drive to complete these day-to-day tasks,” said Joanna Allerhand, assistant director and center of educational partnerships for the college of education. “The program started up in 2007 that was housed through funding grants. From there, the program in its entirety launched from funding.”

The staff who work on Groundswell is housed within the College of Education where they work with the grand funding program and fiscal agents. The College of Education will provide funding at times as well. 

Along with the program, teachers within the College of Education are involved in a training session that ensures that teachers are fluent in environmental studies and keeping up with the times. Allerhand mentioned that some of these teachers are even GVSU graduates. 

“We are hoping that winning this award will give us some more awareness,” Allerhand said. “We are in the College of Education, and some of our staff is made up of GVSU graduates, but we would love to incorporate more GV students into our program.

“What speaks to me with Groundswell is that it reaches to students at that critical point in their life where behaviors are developing that stay with them throughout adulthood. If we can instill environment friendly behavior that they can incorporate in their life, they can engage with the environment around them.” 

The program is geared more towards students grades K-12  because the key is getting younger students out in the environment so they know what it’s like to make a difference at their age because they can remember what it was like, and this shows children they can start making a change now, not just during adulthood.  

“If they are around a friendly, natural environment, they can instill this into their adulthood and look back at all of the differences they made as a young child,” Allerhand said. “This is the most important lesson to take away from this program.”