Science Education Outreach Program

The TLA SEOP Grant Applications are now being accepted for the 2024-2025 school year. Information on the application process can be found under: SEOP Grants Overview

The goal of TLA’s Environmental Science Education Outreach Program, which began in 2011, is to help cultivate a sense of stewardship of the lakes, streams, and land in young people who will be part of the next generation living within the watersheds of Torch, Bellaire, and Clam Lakes. Our strategy for accomplishing this goal is to work with science teachers and students in the school districts of Central Lake, Bellaire, Kalkaska, and Mancelona.

TLA’s Environmental Science Education Outreach Program is a fundamental part of TLA’s Mission to provide leadership to preserve, protect, and improve the environmental quality of the Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed for all generations with emphasis on Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake, Torch Lake and their tributaries.”  By offering supplemental assistance to help local science educators we hope to enrich their environmental science curricula. Science teachers are invited annually to submit a grant application for science materials or experiences that enhance science instruction, but are not within the school district’s budget constraints. This invitation extends to the four school districts within the watersheds of Torch Lake, Clam Lake, and Lake Bellaire. TLA awards as many grants each year as its budget will allow.

This environmental Science Education Outreach Program was started in 2011, and has provided the following items to the four school districts:

  • Over 50 field trips, including class field trips to Grass River Natural Area
  • 15 Framed maps of the Elk River Chain of Lakes for school libraries
  • Over 25 Teachers attended science conferences
  • Several  memberships in state or national science education organizations
  • Nearly 1000 students benefited from subscriptions to science magazines
  • 665 Pieces of science equipment placed in classrooms
  • 107 Participating teachers received most or all of their Wish-List requests
  • Serving thousands of science students – classroom and field trip experiences that enhanced their science curriculum
  • Total funding from TLA since 2011: more than $76,000.
Bellaire 6th graders
Bellaire 6th graders testing the quality of water with a water testing kit courtesy of TLA.

Inland Seas Schoolship Partnership Program

In the first year of the program, TLA pledged to annually fund four Schoolship excursions with Inland Seas Education Association; one for each of the four districts within the watersheds of Torch Lake, Lake Bellaire and Clam Lake, i.e. Bellaire, Central Lake, Kalkaska and Mancelona Schools.

The Inland Seas Schoolship Partnership Program was born of conversations with science teachers. Several teachers expressed a need and we were able to act on it. These requests were granted in addition to the Wish Lists submitted that first year.

Through this partnership, TLA funded 30 ISEA Schoolship excursions. TLA no longer allocates funds specifically for Schooship excursions, however teachers are invited to apply for funding to sail on the Schoolship, or take any field trip, through the SEOP grant process. 

Carol Gray Norris Education Fund

The Carol Gray Norris Scientific Education Fund was created by the Norris family in honor of Carol Gray Norris to offer loans to students, groups of students or science competition teams to purchase necessary materials.

In more recent years, funds requested from the CGN Fund have helped students with financial need in other ways. In 2010, funds from The Carol Gray Norris Scientific Education Fund were used to underwrite a field trip for five Kalkaska physics students with special financial needs, to join their physics class for a special Physics Days field trip. These students were able to participate in a multi-day physics experience in Chicago including the Fermi Labs, Museum of Science and Industry, and an amusement park where they measured velocities and gravitational forces.

Recently, the entire second grade at Birch Street Elementary School in Kalkaska spent a day at the Au Sable Institute thanks to a helping hand from the Carol Gray Norris Fund. In 2015, the CGN Fund underwrote $913 to send Bellaire High School’s 12th grade Biology II class on a field trip to the Fox River, Whitefish Point and other UP destinations.

The CGN Fund provided 6th – 12th grade science classes in Central Lake with current science reading materials while the district bridged the gap between old and new texts. In 2017, the CGN Fund helped Bellaire’s seventh grade with fees for their annual Hayo Went Ha overnight camp trip.

The Carol Gray Norris Scientific Education Fund was a huge success and all of the funds have now been distributed.

Elk Rapids Chain of Lakes Map

In 2008, TLA provided a framed map of the Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed for each building library and some classrooms in the four districts.