School Spotlight: West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science

West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science:

Students Served:
Grades Served: K-5
Year Established:  1994
Elementary School Principal: Kerri Barrett
Elementary School Assistant Principal: Nate VanDuinen     

Students Served:
Grades Served: 6-12
Year Established:  1994
Interim Secondary School Principal: Jennifer Colin

Board Liaison: Stan Rathbun

Board Members:
Peter Vandersluis
Matthew Smith
Dr. Philip Wheeler
Julia Kozminski
Kate Hunt

Authorized by: Central Michigan University


Take a virtual tour of the school here:

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West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science creates an innovative and rigorous environment for students.

Their staff is fully committed to providing an educational experience that allows students to explore and learn utilizing their 62-acre campus.  

This year, West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science was ranked #4 Charter High School in Michigan, #17 High School in Michigan and they are an Official Michigan Green School.

Individualized, Hands-On Learning
West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science takes grade level standards and allows each student to develop mastery through innovative activities. They have many programs, such as academic acceleration and summer school, as well as reading and math specialists who provide support for students. WMAES individualizes instruction so that each student can experience continuous growth, even if they are above grade level.

Kerri Barrett, Elementary Principal: West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science creates a learning experience like no other in Michigan. Teachers give students the opportunity to participate in the concept they are learning. Hands-on learning is a priority.  

Jennifer Colin, Interim Secondary Principal: We give students the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning experiences such as baking in a mud oven, tapping trees for sap to make maple syrup and snow-shoeing through our acreage. We go outside of the classroom on a regular basis.   

Building Community
West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science appreciates and encourages family involvement to help their students grow academically and socially. They use these partnerships to ensure they have rigorous curriculum and high expectations of behavior.  WMAES partners with parents, neighborhood organizations and local businesses to offer events through the year that bring the community together.

College Bound
West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science exposes students to a variety of postsecondary and occupational choices beginning in their early elementary years. As students progress, they learn more about the opportunities available to them from guest speakers, college and career fairs, and field trips. As eighth graders, students will complete an Educational Development Plan, which helps them identify their strengths and interests. Entering high school, they learn the how-to’s of college and scholarship application and meet one-on-one with a guidance counselor to determine the next best steps for them. Students even have the opportunity to dual enroll in college courses so they can experience the rigor of a university and earn college credit before they graduate.



[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”20″]“West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science has a commitment to excellence. Every member of our staff has a passion for our students and their growth. Together, with families, we are providing our students with the knowledge and experiences that will prepare them for achieving their goals,” stated Kerri Barrett. [/perfectpullquote]




[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”20″]“We aren’t just a school, we’re a family.  WMAES students, parents and staff aim to work together in helping students achieve their goals and dreams,” said Jennifer Colin. [/perfectpullquote]






How West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science educators motivate their students to learn…

heather-garnerHeather Garner is a third-grade teacher at WMAES.

What keeps your students aiming for success in the classroom?

“My students really value self-improvement. They like to see how far they can go with things and they are always up for challenges. In math, we always work on extending our third-grade topics to fourth-grade ones. They really like feeling accomplished when they learn something that is meant for a higher grade.”

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rob-barrettRob Barrett is an environmental science teacher at WMAES.

What keeps your students aiming for success in the classroom?

“All students genuinely want to succeed; the trick is finding a way that you can bridge the gap between what you want them to be able to do and what they naturally want for themselves. I show them how to succeed. I make it clear what success looks like, model how to get there, and give them feedback as often as possible along the way.”

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Andrea Hammond – Fifth Grade Teacher

“I motivate my students by setting up routines and high expectations from the very first day of school. Having these set in place allows for students to focus more on learning rather than the procedures. It also allows them to have more independence because they know what is expected and can do it without being reminded.

I also motivate my students by providing choices and real life activities in their learning, when possible, so that they can take ownership of their learning. For instance, in reading groups I have my students help decide which books we read together. A recent real-life activity that we did was that the students each created their own mini children’s picture book and then read them to our kindergarten classes. The students were so proud of their work!”

Jessica Heintskill – Second Grade Teacher

“Throughout the first week of school, and often times even before that first day, I spend time learning about my students’ interests, which sets the tone for the year ahead in terms of motivating students to do their very best. I use a variety of ways to learn about each and every one of them. Interest surveys and really talking with my kids and getting to know them on a personal level are a few ways I do this. I take an interest in what they do outside of class and celebrate those accomplishments in our classroom by sharing “Good Things.” I find that when students know you are invested in them on a personal level, they are motivated to perform well in the classroom.

Another idea for motivating students to learn is giving students a choice.  When students are provided with a choice, they are also motivated in the classroom setting to do their very best. And finally, SHOW EXCITEMENT! When students observe my excitement for an activity, it is truly contagious and a huge factor in motivating students to learn! I urge you to try just one of these ideas and see how it motivates your students and maybe even yourself.”

Melissa Thompson – Kindergarten Teacher

“I foster a love of learning with my students by having good relationships with them and holding them to high standards. Before each day, I meet with my trickier students to tell them how proud I am of them for something positive they did, setting a positive tone for our relationship for the day. We then talk about their individual academic and behavioral goals, positive and negative consequences, and how they will handle themselves when faced with things that make them upset. I do this as a whole class as well. Then, I share my joy for the subjects we are learning and offer time to investigate subjects deeper as their interest leads. We spend a lot of time learning outdoors, which really helps us connect as a class and become passionate lifelong learners.”