Adrian College Track and Explore Program celebrates 10-year partnership with MIS

Posted Thursday, June 08, 2023
Author: Mickey Alvarado

Past teacher education and science majors who led Adrian College’s Track and Explore Program could hardly believe it’s been 10 years since youths in grades 5-8 began learning about key concepts in nature through a unique educational partnership with Michigan International Speedway (MIS).

“Ten years, already?” Adrian College graduate Gabby Dixon posted on the College’s Facebook page. “I still use skills and stories from this program in my career! So many wonderful memories and learning points in the first few years of growth! So excited to see this program carry on/evolve, that Adrian College students are able to have this experience to expand their skills and the local schools are able to enjoy!”

During the month of May, Adrian College students and faculty supervisors provide science-based educational field trips at the speedway to middle school students, in Lenawee, Monroe, Hillsdale and Jackson County school districts. The Track and Explore field trips turn MIS’ 1,400-acre property, and 800-acres of wetlands, into a giant outdoor classroom. Lessons from the program meet state benchmarks for each grade in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The lessons include Animal Encounter, Trail Walk, Water Quality, Microscope, Physics, and Track.

“It’s so rewarding to welcome these students to our broader property at MIS each year to help foster an appreciation, passion, and respect for the sciences,” said Michigan International Speedway President Joe Fowler. “STEM is important to our everyday life here at the track — both on and off the racing surface. And we take great pride in being able to provide a facility that offers a wide range of educational opportunities for local students.”

“Track and Explore was absolutely one of the most amazing things that I was ever a part of at Adrian College,” said Adrian College graduate, Brandi Parkhurst. “My four years with the program played such a huge role in making me who I am today, both as a person and as an educator. I cannot wait to see the positive impact that this program will have moving forward into the next 10 years, and beyond! I know, personally, through both my work with the program and my later experience in the education world, that the impact that Track and Explore has had, and continues to have, within the local education community is virtually immeasurable. In an attempt to put this impact into perspective, data shows that over the course of its first five years in operation (2012-2017), the program positively impacted the education and lives of over 7,000 local students, and I can only imagine that this number has grown to well over 10,000-15,000 in the years since then.”

The mission of Track and Explore, as a nature-based educational program, is to inspire future generations of students to explore and discover the wonders that science has to offer while maintaining a never-ending curiosity and an unwavering respect for the great outdoors, humanity, and all living things.

“The program continues to grow and change every year to incorporate more information about animals, water quality, invasive species, and the physics of the track,” said program director Janna D’Amico, Adrian College’s Institute for Career Planning Director.

“Our first year, we hosted about 1,265 students from nine schools,” D’Amico said. “Each year we have grown in the number of schools attending and branched out to host lessons at MIS and on our campus. We hosted 19 schools during May in 2019.”

The pilot program began in 2012, but was halted for some time due to Covid-19.

“Our first year back, in 2022, we hosted nine schools and just over 1,000 students. This year, we will have 12 schools and roughly 1,000 students.”

IndyCar racing legend Mario Andretti was very impressed with the Track and Explore Program and sent its leaders the following statement.

“Happy 10th birthday, and congratulations on 10 years of success and 10 years of promoting the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plans in our world!” Andretti said. “I love everything I’ve heard about your program… Thank you on behalf of everyone who will benefit from your research and dedication. The lessons and exploration that you offer will follow you wherever you go. And, I expect that some of the kids in your program will become our nation’s most promising young scientists, engineers and innovators!”

For more information about the Track and Explore Program, visit

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