Since its founding, Michigan State University Extension has, in all areas of endeavor, led Michigan residents forward by improving their lives. Today, Michigan residents face crucial issues that affect their quality of life including rising levels of obesity, low achievement in science literacy, threats to water quality, children unprepared for school, and cities and townships facing bankruptcy in a tenuous economic recovery.
MSUE’s “I Know MI Numbers” (pronounced “I know my numbers”) initiative will inspire residents to be active participants in understanding the “numbers” that translate into healthier living, productive and sustainable agriculture, a cleaner environment, educational achievement and good local government. Our final goal is a state that is thriving and successful.
We’ll execute five programs over the next six to nine months through the “I Know MI Numbers” initiative. The programs relate to areas highlighted as priorities in Gov. Rick Snyder’s dashboard, which measures Michigan’s performance relative to other states and relative to our past in order to be able to measure improvements. This idea of keeping track by numbers is familiar to us in Extension as we continuously seek to measure the impact of our work in numbers and in stories. By focusing on five key areas in an intense effort, we intend to make a difference, demonstrating that we take the dashboard seriously, we take our mission seriously in helping Michigan to improve, and we hold ourselves accountable.
As you all know, this is not the only work we’ll be doing over the next six months. Rather, these projects help to draw attention to the impact and relevance of our programs. We will feature other work that is underway, such as our work in community food systems, that will be showing impacts over a longer time horizon. The projects we’re featuring now are ones that help us to show our ability to respond and achieve impacts in a short time.
The programs include:
Agriculture that Protects Michigan’s Waters
The first bill that Gov. Snyder signed into law was the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program legislation. In signing it, he called attention to the importance of agriculture in Michigan’s economic recovery and the innovation of Michigan agriculturalists in taking on responsibility for practices that protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources. Water is a tremendous resource in Michigan for agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and recreation. Clean and safe water resources are crucial to our quality of life and a bright economic future. And water quality is one of the 21 metrics on the governor’s dashboard. MSU Extension staff members will work with farmers to educate them about and help them to implement practices that reduce the flow of nutrients and pesticides to the water supply. MSU Extension will implement educational programs during the growing season and measure the impacts so that by the end of the growing season, we can collect measurable outcome data that directly correspond to improved water quality.
Reducing Adult Obesity
Obesity leads to chronic disease and affects quality of life. Educational programming can help people change their behavior and in doing so can improve their own health. Our science-based education program aims to reduce the BMI (Body Mass Index) of individuals in Genesee and Saginaw counties, where obesity levels are the highest in the state. Working with faith-based organizations, worksites and through its existing programming, MSU Extension will lead nutrition education classes with an increased emphasis on obesity reduction. Our goal is to reach 8,000 people before the end of the year, changing behaviors and improving health, and demonstrating to participants and to decision makers if significant changes have been achieved.
Helping our Cities and Towns Succeed
MSU Extension educators, working with partners from the legal and financial sectors, are providing the educational foundation for local officials to use tools provided by the governor and Legislature to address the fiscal crisis, improving the quality of service and reducing the cost of government. Extension staff members will provide workshops and trainings on topics such as the new emergency financial manager law, legal contracts, health care management, turnaround plans, local finance, local government cooperation and consolidation, school law and finance, and municipal bankruptcy.
Increasing Early Childhood Literacy
More than a third of children enter kindergarten without the skills needed to benefit from the instruction they receive. MSU Extension is partnering with the Molina Foundation to distribute 50,000 books across Michigan. Combined with other learning resources that will be included, parents and caregivers will have the resources they need to better prepare young children for success in school and life. Supporting literacy education is how MSU Extension will help our youngest citizens to be reading at grade level by the third grade.
Improving Science Literacy
MSU Extension has a long history of providing science education in a nonformal setting that uses an experiential, learn-by-doing method. Since science literacy for school-aged youth in Michigan is below the national average, we plan to help rectify the situation by supporting teachers across Michigan with resources, experiments and lesson plans around three science focus areas: biology (animal and veterinary sciences), plant sciences and environmental sciences (including bioenergy). MSU Extension will provide resource packets to teachers along with training in how to incorporate the resources into their classroom lessons. The materials will align with Michigan Science Education Standards by grade. MSUE staff members will coordinate 4‑H Science Blast and National 4-H Youth Science Day events across Michigan.
Staff members are hard at work making these programs a reality. We expect initial results to be reported as early as fall 2011.
View the video below on the “I Know MI Numbers” campaign produced by Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications. It will play on virtually any browser and will also play on most IPhone and Android smart phones. Its narrator is not the most charismatic speaker, but I hope he gets the point across that we mean business when it comes to making a difference in Michigan.