WHC was engaged by Stellantis to conduct several tree plantings as part of the company’s MotorCitizens community engagement initiative. This effort, which started in 2018, included planting 15 trees on a vacant lot owned by a local community development group, Canfield Consortium, which is located both down the street from the Mack Ave plant and across Canfield St. from the Barack Obama Leadership Academy. Around the time of the plant’s 2021 expansion, the company installed Beniteau Stormwater Park within the neighborhood. The park is part of a multifaced Community Benefits Agreement, designed alongside Canfield Consortium and other community leaders, which seeks to alleviate the social and environmental impacts of plant expansion.
Beniteau Stormwater Park’s installation was paired with WHC’s development of curricula for local schools, and corporate volunteers were trained to serve as lesson leaders. Designed to resonate with students with a wide range of learning styles, both curricula incorporate hands-on activities, social learning, and opportunities for reflection. The topics that align with Michigan State Science Standards, providing a real-world supplement to lessons being taught in school. Activities illustrate concepts such as the interconnectedness of food webs and morphological diversity of animals, allowing students to make real-world connections between the concepts covered and their immediate natural surroundings.
In a community devastated by flooding during extreme rain events in summer 2021, activities illustrating the water cycle, from the local rain garden level up to the watershed level, are especially important. Students have seen the damaging effects of climate change on their homes and communities, and these opportunities for place-based learning that explores the role of trees in storing stormwater will help broaden their understanding of the solutions available to build local resilience.