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Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

"I need to find a decomposer."

Bryce Gidley is learning about ecological communities. It just so happens he’s surrounded, immersed really, in long hallway full of ecological communities on display. He’s on the third floor of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, standing in front of a wetlands display, about 50 steps away from his new classroom.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The app design has been months in the making. But on this day – Thursday of last week – the teens are nervous. 

"And we’re scared because we have to present in front of a board of people," says Viviana Farfan, a sophomore at University Prep Academy in Grand Rapids. She’s sitting in the window-lit offices of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology, or WMCAT. Next to her is her friend, Imani Akbar, both of them trying to avoid thinking about their presentation.  

"Have you guys, any of you ever done a presentation like this in front of a business person, a downtown development person?" I ask.

"No," says Akbar.

"Not at all," says Farfan.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Today we have an update from a story we brought you in January. For that story, a documentary we called "The Big Test," I spent six weeks following a third-grade class at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids. I watched as students got ready to take the state-mandated MEAP test for the first time. Students took the test in October. But the results of the test didn’t become public until last week.

So now, we're going back to Congress to see how students did.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 The big test is coming. 

"I don’t even want to take it, says Musa, a third grader at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids. "I'm not a big fan of tests."

Musa carries himself like an adult: hands casually in his pockets, shoulders back.  He stands on the edge of a cracked asphalt basketball court.

It’s picture day at Congress, and Musa has on a red t-shirt with black sleeves. He says it’s for special occasions, only.  

On the shirt, the words, “Destined for greatness," are laid out across Musa's chest.

"Did you pick it?" I ask him about the shirt.

"Yeah," he says.

"Why did you like what it says?" I ask.

"Because I didn’t want it to be something bad," he said. "So I put ‘Destined for Greatness,’ so people think I’m good, not bad."

courtesy Melissa and Jeffrey Rice

The long, glorious summer is over for Michigan's kids. But the new school year does offer an opportunity for a fresh start

Today, we bring you a story of what that fresh start can look like from a kid's perspective. Leah Rice recently turned nine. Last year, she went through a difficult time with her family. Over the summer, we gave her an audio recorder. The story she tells on her own is different than the story you'd hear from the adults in her life. But Leah's story is a reminder of the importance of family, fun and the chance at a new beginning.  Click above to listen.  

Dustin Dwyer

It's no secret that pre-kindergarten education can have a profound impact on the future prospects of children - studies have shown it for decades. But in Michigan, and in the rest of the country, only about half of kids actually attend preschool. Plenty of parents want to send their kids to preschool, there just aren't enough classes available.