What’s On This April and a Message from MLC’s Program Director

Hear from our program director about what we're airing this month and find thematic learning resources.

Welcome to April! This month, I wanted to switch things up a bit and share some exciting updates with you directly. I’m Matt Hamilton, your Program Director, and I’m pumped to dive into what’s happening at MLC. There will be links to content throughout and recommendations for what you can do with your students, and at the end you can find broadcast listings for most of the programs mentioned.

This time last month, I was at the Michigan Science Teachers Association Conference where we partnered with Great Lakes Now and PBS to screen an episode of a new show called Wild Hope. The show is a beautiful, impactful series of eight documentary-style episodes that showcase the steps conservationists and activists are taking around the world to reverse biodiversity loss and promote ecological restoration. One of the attendees noted that this series is so needed because we have so many stories about environmental destruction, and one of the things our students really need is more opportunity to learn from stories of hope.

I’m entering April feeling inspired, hopeful, and ready for another spring. I hope you are, too! If you haven’t seen any of the Wild Hope episodes, please check them out. They’re great for students in third grade and up (including my own third grader who loved the episode about axolotl conservation in Mexico). Their site has full episodes streaming for free, a bunch of additional shorter videos that are just as engaging and inspirational, and viewing guides and lesson plans to help you guide your students to take a positive, conservationist approach to environmental issues.

Earth Month, Earth Day, and Environmental Education Week

Speaking of which – April is Earth Month! Earth Day is April 22nd and Environmental Education week is April 19-23. We’re looking forward to the first annual Earth Day Student Summit in Lansing, hosted by our friends at EGLE. Will you be there? Even if you miss the in-person event, there are tons of PBS resources you can bring into your classroom to celebrate all month long.

The Earth Day collection from PBS LearningMedia is a great place to start. There’s a really cool mix of science, history, and cultural content in there – including some locally produced content from our friends at WGVU and Groundswell (if you’re in the Grand Rapids area, look them up and bring their place-based programming to your school!)

While I’m talking about regional content, I can’t say enough good things about Great Lakes Now. Visit greatlakesnow.org and check out the monthly show which features stories and reporting from across the Great Lakes region in addition to regular columns, mapping resources, and other cool environmental content. We also work with them to create monthly lesson plans that go along with each episode so that your students can watch, learn, and do real, relevant science as they study our local ecosystems and communities. (these are NGSS lessons, but they include news articles and other media that make them interdisciplinary and great for social studies or ELA classes, too!)

If you work with younger students, don’t overlook our most popular early elementary program, Read, Write, ROAR! Yes, it is a literacy show, but it integrates science and social studies concepts based on state standards. Specifically, seasons 2 and 4 of the show for grades K-3 help students think about science and environment concepts that are relevant across Michigan. Check out the scope and sequence and view full episodes and activity guides.

On Air for Earth Month:

The Letter: A Message For Our Earth
April 2 at 7:30pm
This film tells the story about the Pope’s call to care for our planet. In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’, a letter to the world confronting the looming calamity of human impact on Earth and ourselves. It is one of the most ambitious and revolutionary papal statements in history and outlines the most critical environmental and social issues that we collectively face.

Independent Lens: One with The Whale
April 30 at 7:30pm
Hunting whales is a matter of life or death for the residents of St. Lawrence. When a shy Alaska Native teen becomes the youngest person ever to harpoon a whale for his village, his family is blindsided by thousands of keyboard activists brutally attacking him online—without full perspective on the importance of the hunt to his community’s well-being.

Arab American Heritage Month

It’s also Arab American Heritage Month! Did you know Michigan is home to the first and only museum celebrating the stories and experiences of Arab Americans? It’s located in Dearborn, MI. We have three episodes of our “On Location” virtual field trip series that invite students into the museum and into stories of Arab American immigrants, citizens, and activists. For more information, visit the AANM website – they have in-person and virtual programming, resources for educators, and opportunities to connect.

World Health Day

April 7 is World Health Day. We’re super excited about the ongoing work from MSU Extension’s Michigan Vaccine Project to educate young people across the state about the importance of immune health and vaccinations. Follow @michiganvaccineproject to see more. You can also find more health content from PBS LearningMedia, including science lessons, history features, games, and more. And if your students are interested in health careers, there’s an episode of The Career Center that they can watch, including a teaching guide and a fact sheet that can help them plan their next steps!

On Air for World Health Day:

American Experience: The Cancer Detectives
Apil 2 at 11:00pm
The story of how the life-saving cervical cancer test became an ordinary part of women’s lives is as unusual and remarkable as the coalition of people who ultimately made it possible: a Greek immigrant, Dr. George Papanicolaou; his intrepid wife, Mary; Japanese-born artist Hashime Murayama; Dr. Helen Dickens, an African American OBGYN in Philadelphia; and an entirely new class of female scientists known as cyto-screeners. But the test was just the beginning. Once the test proved effective, the campaign to make pap smears available to millions of women required nothing short of a total national mobilization. The Cancer Detectives tells the untold story of the first-ever war on cancer and the people who fought tirelessly to save women from what was once the number one cancer killer of women.

The Invisible Shield
April 2 at 12:00am
Discover how public health has doubled life expectancy, but the system is now in jeopardy. When the world has to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health sector revisits the past to create solutions.

Poetry Month

The last thing I’m really looking forward to in April is poetry month. Michigan has SO much brilliant poetry programming for our young people. Did you know that Michigan has a state Poet Laureate? Nandi Comer was a guest at this year’s Poetry Out Loud state finals competition (congratulations to Paige Cook who is representing Michigan at national finals!), and we got to connect on some content that will be in our upcoming “Power of Poetry” special. By the way, you can access free copies of Nandi Comer’s book Tapping Out, along with tons of other free books, at readmichigan.org, thanks to our friends at the Library of Michigan.

Get ready for the upcoming special by sharing the first “Power of Poetry” with your students, featuring InsideOut Literary Arts Citywide Poets Manager Justin Rogers and a bunch of youth poets from around the state. I’m also currently into the PBS series Poetry in America and their latest season features some voices from Michigan! The show is wonderful, and PBS LearningMedia has everything you need to bring it into your classroom.

More for April

On Air for Autism Awareness Month:

In A Different Key
April 16 at 7:00pm
A mother tracks down the first person ever diagnosed with autism, now an elderly man living in rural Mississippi, to learn if his life story holds promise for her own autistic son. Her journey exposes a startling record of cruelty and kindness alike, framed by forces like race, money and privilege – but leads to hope that more communities are learning to have the backs of people on the spectrum.

On Air for Parkinson's Awareness Month

Independent Lens: Matter of Mind: My Parkinson’s
April 11 at 8:00pm
Three people—a political cartoonist, a mother turned boxing coach, and an optician—navigate their lives with resourcefulness and determination in the face of a degenerative illness, Parkinson’s disease.

I hope you have a fantastic April. If you need anything, or if you have ideas to help us continue to bring public media to Michigan’s classrooms, please reach out.