Following the success of an ongoing partnership to positively impact the environment while benefitting science, technology and math education, Michigan International Speedway and Adrian College have developed plans for a first-of-its kind science center and science-related field trips at NASCAR’s fastest racetrack.

This unique partnership in sports will see hundreds of school children and college students from the region benefitting from learning about the ecosystem of the Irish Hills area, but also experiencing nature and conservancy that could contribute to their future work as scientists.

“MIS is truly thrilled to partner with Adrian College to bring something so unique and impactful to our area,” MIS President Roger Curtis said. “We are proud to showcase both Adrian College and MIS in a ways that might surprise a lot of people by providing outdoor educational programs and experiences such as TRACK AND EXPLORE for all of the children in our area. Here in the beautiful Irish Hills, the outdoors means a great deal to all of us at MIS so we hope these experiences help open kids to take active roles in addressing the complex environmental challenges facing our world, and instilling in them a sense of responsibility for and stewardship of the open spaces, waterways and natural resources.”

The partnership called TRACK AND EXPLORE has provided Adrian College biology students with opportunities to research and study animal and plant life on 900 acres of the 1,400-acre, environmentally rich Michigan International Speedway.

Adrian College students have already found and photographed biological samples and developed displays for the MIS offices, enlisting Adrian College art majors for illustrations. Now, in preparation for the next phase of the project, Adrian College students have developed a field guide and self-guided tour book for visitors.

“Adrian College is pleased to partner with MIS in offering an innovative partnership tying the flora and fauna of the Irish Hills area into academic programming at the college level,” said Adrian College President Jeffrey R. Docking. “The entire community benefits from an opportunity such as this from our faculty researchers to our students in the natural sciences and teacher education programs to future scientists found in the surrounding school districts.  TRACK AND EXPLORE combines the best personnel and resources from our two great organizations into a powerful learning opportunity for children.”

There are four educational components of the program:

  • How’s the Water: Scientific Testing of Water Quality and Why it Matters (testing water found in the wetlands at MIS and looking at it through microscopes to determine its quality)
  • Likely Suspects: Identifying Flora and Fauna of the Irish Hills (a walk through an MIS nature trail and identifying different trees, plantlife)
  • Critter Encounter (the animals encountered at MIS)
  • Track Tour (A tour of NASCAR’s fastest racetrack and the science behind its speed)

TRACK AND EXPLORE activities will take place at Michigan International Speedway in the Graves Family Campground and the speedway’s infield media center. Programs begin this week and will conclude Nov. 1; but will start again in full force in Spring 2013.

For Michigan International Speedway, the partnership has created a wonderful avenue for its brand promise to support environmental initiatives, community endeavors, education initiatives and worthwhile activities for kids, all in the backdrop of the fastest racetrack in NASCAR.

There are no limits to where the future of this program could go. One goal would see the eventual building of a science, nature and learning center at MIS, open year-round for kindergarten through 12th grade students for experiential learning about local species and environmental history.

The project kickoff will primarily be funded by MIS Cares, the philanthropic effort of the speedway, and some of its resources. The Ryan Newman Foundation, fronted by NASCAR driver and environmentalist Ryan Newman, is also one of the first donors, as is the NASCAR Foundation. MIS cares is a donor advised Fund of the NASCAR Foundation, a 501c3 charitable entity. 

Adrian College will also continue to seek grant opportunities to assist in developing a long-term, hands-on program to fund the partnership in the future.

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