Upcoming recycling event in Meridian on April 25

Chippewa Middle School in Okemos gets the community involved in keeping the Earth green by putting on an upcoming recycling event for area residents.
The spring recycling event, which will occur on Saturday April 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., gives residents an outlet to safely recycle their unwanted items instead of discarding them into landfills.
“We’re drawing awareness to recycling options in the community,” said LeRoy Harvey, the recycling and energy coordinator of Meridian Township. “We’re providing a one-stop option for people that want to clean out their garages and basements.”
The flyer for the event explains what items can be dropped off, which includes items such as egg cartons, bottle glass, clothing, furniture, bicycles, and more. Some items have requirements to be followed, such as a few with extra fees.
Harvey said the best thing someone can do is to reduce how much they consume and how much waste they generate. The next best thing is to reuse as much as they can, and to recycle what they cannot.
“Become aware of options in your community,” Harvey said. “You might have something right in your own building.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for the event can contact Ellen Dillman at 517-339-2015

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Meridian planning commission approves rezoning proposal

Steve Freemire voices his opposition to the proposed rezoning

Steve Freemire voices his opposition to the proposed rezoning

Jason Ruff

The Meridian Times

Thanks to some voluntary amendments, the Meridian Township Planning Commission has approved the proposed rezoning north of Jolly Road.

The project initially came under fire from residents because of the original plan to zone six acres along Kansas Road from RR (rural residential) to C-2, which would permit commercial development. Many residents living in the area felt that such a dramatic change to the area would not work with the neighborhood.

Coming into the April 13 planning commission meeting, developer T.A. Forsberg Inc., presented several amendments to the initial proposal that eliminated the Kansas Road section from the plan.

“We decided to pull the Kansas (road) piece out right now because it gives us the opportunity to build the rest of the project without the opposition,” said Brent Forsberg, president of T.A. Forsberg Inc. Forsberg said that because the six acres are no longer part of the project, the number of amenities in the project will have to be reduced.

“It’s going to scale down the project a little bit.” said Forsberg.

With the controversial portion no longer part of the proposal, the planning commission approved the rezoning by a unanimous vote, and formally recommended it to the township board.

“The board of trustees will have it on their agenda, they will have another public hearing. And then they will vote on the final decision to approve or not the rezoning,” said Planning Commissioner Thomas Deits.

Should the township board finally approve the rezoning, the developer will have to return to the planning commission with a formal building plan.

One residents who has been fighting had mixed emotions.

“I was very happy with the concession to take out the six acres on Kansas Road and I was disappointed with them going forward with the rest of the zoning,” said resident Steve Freemire.

He said that he still has concerns that the project will cause traffic and water problems for nearby residents and that he plans to keep fighting the project.

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Low-income students remain undetected in Okemos High School

By Samantha VanHoef
The Meridian Times

If you ask Okemos High School guidance Counselor Beth Josephson how many students lost their house last year, she’ll have a guess. If you ask her how many students resort to stealing to feel like they’re keeping up with their peers, she’ll give you another guess. But if you ask Josephson who these students are, she couldn’t tell you — because she doesn’t know.

MI County Poverty Map

2014 data by U.S. News & World Report reports that 15 percent of Okemos High Students are considered economically disadvantaged. This means that of the 1,325 students currently enrolled at Okemos High School, almost 200 students fit in this category.

“Sometimes by the time I learn through conversation, which is mostly after they come in, that the student is struggling,” Josephson said. “There is a lot of pride that goes into families that come from poverty or low-income and they have learned to adapt their whole lives. Even when offered things quite honestly they may decline them because of that pride, which is a wonderful thing, but also doesn’t help help when we could be helpful.”

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Adopt an animal at the Harris Nature Center

 Aztec, one of two red-tailed hawks at the Harris Nature Center

Aztec, one of two red-tailed hawks at the Harris Nature Center

By Jason Ruff

The Meridian Times

 No, you cannot adopt one for the animals at the Harris Nature Center and take it home, but a monetary donation can help defray some of the costs of caring for them.

The center uses a variety of animals such as turtles, snakes and hawks to help educate visitors on Michigan’s native wildlife.

Katie Adams, park naturalist for the center, explained why the adoption program is so vital for the center’s inhabitants. “From time to time they will need medical attention, or visits to the vet … they need food, they need habitat maintenance, and all of those things cost money,“ said Adams.

The center’s two red-tailed Hawks, for example, go through about 10 frozen mice a day at about a dollar per mouse.

All animals in the center rely on the staff for survival because they cannot live in the wild.

“All of the animals that are here are permanently injured or have some other reason why they cannot be re-introduced into the wild,” said Kit Rich, nature center coordinator.

Brewer the snapping turtle comes to the edge of his tank for a closeup

Brewer the snapping turtle comes to the edge of his tank for a closeup

Some animals have tragic stories of being snatched away from their native habitats. Two such examples are Tyco, the eastern box turtle and Brewer, a snapping turtle. Both were stolen out of the wild and given to the center when the Department of Natural Resources took custody of them.

Another story revolves around Carver, a wood turtle. Carver was found on a sidewalk in Meridian with his front feet and his tail missing, the results of a suspected raccoon attack. Since he was taken in by the center, he has been living the good life in a private aquarium with custom-built ramps to help him with his disability.

Talon, the center’s second hawk, sits on a branch outside his box. Note his disfigured right wing

Talon, the center’s second hawk, sits on a branch outside his box. Note his disfigured right wing

Perhaps the most touching story of survival involves the center’s red-tailed hawks, Aztec and Talon. Aztec was found on a road near Webberville in 2008 with a broken wing. It is surmised that Aztec had not yet learned to hunt and was feeding on road kill when a car struck him.

Talon was found at a construction site in Okemos in 2010 with a crooked wing, which inhibited his ability to fly. Further examination revealed that Talon had broken his wing and the bones had healed incorrectly. The center suspected that Talon’s mate fed him during the healing process and helped him survive. Both hawks were rehabilitated at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, but their injuries were so severe they were sent to the Harris Nature Center as goodwill ambassadors for the center and Michigan wildlife education.

All of the 14 adoptable animals at the center are native to the Michigan, which Rich says helps fulfill the center’s mission of educating people about their surroundings.

Not only do the animals help educate the public, connect  with the animals and gain a better understanding of Michigan’s wildlife.

“We believe these animals are like teachers. They’re ambassadors because when people come, they see the animals, they learn about them and it kind of helps them have a heart connection with nature and then hopefully that translates into making them want to be outside more or caring about the environment a little bit more then they may have before,” said Rich.

The staff also bonds with the animals.

 “It’s a ton of fun working with all of these animals mainly because they are all Michigan native animals,” said Peter Matcheck, an employee at the Harris Nature Center. “It’s really good for educational purposes not only for myself … but also for everyone who gets to come and see them.”

Adams said Carver is her favorite animal because he is the friendliest and will always come close to the window to see guests.

Adoption fees vary from animal to animal. Red-tailed hawks cost  the most at $150, while aquatic turtles are the least expensive at $50 to adopt.

The benefits of adopting an animal include an adoption certificate, a color photo of the adopted animal, as well as a biography and recognition on the center’s “Frame of Fame.”

Adopting one of the animal ambassadors will not only help the animals directly, but will also further the center’s environmental education mission.

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Lansing company We Love Kids and Dogs moves to new location in Meridian Mall

By Samantha VanHoef
The Meridian Times

Dog bowls, Strider Bikes and robots line the walls. On the floor, a brightly colored rug sits while four sets of paws scamper through the 900-square-foot space. But by August 2015, We Love Dogs and Kids will move within the Meridian Mall to a location four times larger than its present size within the Meridian Mall.

A child looks through the dog toys on display inside We Love Dogs and Kids. The store opened in October 2014 and will be moving to a larger location during summer 2015.

A child looks through the dog toys on display inside We Love Dogs and Kids. The store opened in October 2014 and will be moving to a larger location during summer 2015.

We Love Kids and Dogs started as a way for Melissa and Chris Allen to sell dog bowls designed to keep the long ears of some dog breeds out of the food and water in their bowls. After travelling to sell the “Poochie Bowl,” the couple decided to move to a storefront in the Meridian Mall. Here, they were able to not only sell their dog-focused invention, but use their passion for creativity to encourage kids to use their own imaginations.

“Looking at all of our products and having it all be very inventor-focused, I noticed that all of the inventors started creating when they were little and were always getting in trouble for it,” Melissa Allen said. “So I thought ‘Why don’t we have something to encourage the kids when they’re little rather than getting them in trouble?’ So I brought in products that create the opportunity for them to make and build and create. I thought there has to be more than just stuff. There has to be an experience for the kids.”

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3-D printer enters Haslett public school classroom

By Emily Nagle
The Meridian Times

Haslett Middle School’s eighth grade classroom receives a 3-D printer after receiving a grant from the MSU School of Engineering.

Haslett Middle School science teachers Brandy Butcher and Phil Rutkowski attended a Research Education for Teachers program over the summer that was sponsored by MSU through the National Science Foundation. In return, MSU has given the classroom new equipment to benefit the learning environment.

The 3-D printer is used in Rutkowski’s science classroom lessons for eighth grade students in his exploratory class.

Rutkowski starts off his lessons with a review of biomimicry, which is finding sustainable solutions to human challenges by imitating nature’s models.

Rutkowski then has students imitate the prototype robot he made until the students are ready to make their own mold in the 3-D computer program to form a better robot.

When students complete their designs for a new mold, they send Rutkowski the document.

However, Rutkowski said the 3-D program where the students make their models often miscommunicates with the printer due to confusion in the process of moving files.

“Its unfortunate but it’s a part of the learning experience,” Rutkowski said. “If everything worked the first time, we wouldn’t need engineers.”

Rutkowski said he tries to inspire his students to always explore and discover new things, and having the 3-D printer allows the students to act on their ideas through critical thinking.

“In middle school, kids get to explore something they never really thought of. If I present it right, the world is their oyster,” Rutkowski said. “It opens up the door, an exploratory door that they may never have
The most important part of the lesson is to get the eighth grade students to think critically and learn by trial and error.

“They don’t have that problem solving brain yet,” Rutkowski said. “They get some interesting ideas, then they create more problems sometimes with their solutions, but I let ‘em go. I let ‘em explore. That’s the reality of it how’s that going to work.”

The 3-D printer as well as all its necessary supplies, such as the plastic and liquids for the mold and filling, was given to the middle school by MSU’s School of Engineering grant, Rutkowski said.

The grant for Rutkowski’s classroom equipment included $1,200 for the entire year and also includes the printer that was given to him in the beginning of the school year by MSU’s School of Engineering.

The person in contact with Haslett Middle School about the program was Andrew Kim, assistant to the dean for recruitment and K-12 outreach at MSU, Rutkowski said.

During the 6-week summer program, Kim paired Rutkowski and 7th grade science teacher Brandy Butcher with graduate students to work with them every day.

The teachers who attended were paired with the graduate students so they could see what it’s like to do research in engineering within all it’s different divisions, such as computer science, mechanical and electrical.

“When teachers are training to be a teacher, a lot of them never go into a lab to see what the engineering process or scientific method really is, so this gives them the chance to get in there and do it,” Butcher said.

Butcher’s focus was learning the mechanical engineering of the robots and trying to learn to control their actions.

“There’s a gap between content science and especially with all this engineering and STEM connections, they want teachers to be able to have that experience,” Butcher said.

While teachers update their lessons, they try to find new ways to keep kids interested in learning.

“Positive teaching would instill in students the desire to keep on learning themselves as they go through life and to help students see that there is a reward in learning things for their own sake as well as what they can do for you,” co-director of education policy Robert Floden said.

Using the printer in the classroom has exponentially increased the students’ desire to learn, Rutkowski said.

“They want to print everything. I actually have to limit what they’re doing,” Rutkowski said. “The focus just has to be toward a curriculum goal.”

While the students are learning more about new technology, they are experiencing the difficulties that come from experimenting with new technology.

“From a teaching point of view, we all learn together, and as technology changes in the world, we all learn together,” Rutkowski said. “It’s a community learning piece. We’re influencing the way our work will be later.”

Rutkowski and Butcher plan to combine the use of the printer for more classes, but need to first fix any problems they may have with it.

“Were not there yet,” Butcher said. “It takes a lot of baby steps to work out the bugs.”

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Okemos Road pedestrian bridge nears installation

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Emily Nagle
The Meridian Times

Construction of the pedestrian bridge along southbound Okemos Road over the Red Cedar River is reaching completion and the bridge will soon be ready for installation.

The project, led by project engineer Nyal Nunn of Meridian Township’s public works and engineering department, was started in January and should be fully installed during the second week of April.

The steel bridge is being manufactured by Cameron Bridgeworks, LLC, of Elmira, New York, and will be delivered to the site in four sections to be installed by Toebe Construction, LLC of Wixom in mid-April.

The bridge will be separate from the existing bridge and will be for pedestrians, bicycles and non-motorized travel.

The taxpayers and property owners in Meridian Township Board voted numerous times on a pedestrian bicycle pathway millage, which would provide extra sidewalks and off-road pathways.

“It’s primarily for pedestrians and the pedestrian segment of our community is pretty vocal and pretty substantial,” Nunn said. “We have a lot of people who ride bikes and who walk recreationally, but also as a means of transport.”

The Meridian Township Board authorized a contract of about $655,000 to go from the Meridian Bike Paths fund for building the bridge.

The Board saw this bridge as a priority for public safety. On southbound Okemos Road, the only way to get across the river is on the deck of the bridge, which is only 18 inches wide, Meridian Township Treasurer Julie Brixie said.

“It’s right next to the travel lanes, so if you’re walking across it with your kids and somebody trips and falls, you could fall right into the lane of traffic,” Brixie said.

In winter, the bridge has to be shut down entirely due to the weather.

“We can’t keep snow off of it in the winter because it’s so narrow that if you were to send someone out to shovel it, once the snow plows come by, they throw snow right on top of it,” Brixie said.

The bridge is between Wonch Park and Ferguson Park.

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