Initially I wasn’t convinced that “claiming a lake”, much like claiming an NFL football team, was important to a relatively small rural land locked school. The majority of my students have never even been to a Great Lake let alone cared about the health of one. Then I realized I could cultivate the love of a lake by applying issues that plagued Lake Erie to smaller bodies of water that I could actually get my students into. If I could set up situations in which they discover issues in our own back, our school pond and the creeks and tributaries that feed into the Mad River, then I could easily compare these issues to Lake Erie, other Great Lakes, and even to our oceans, hence creating future stewards of our planet. The trick is convincing students that the world is, in fact, a small connected place, and humans are, in fact, very large in the world. The smaller we can make the world seem to students, the more ownership and responsibility they take for the future of it. The Great Lakes, issues included, belong to all of us, not just the countries, states, and counties that border them. We all need to “claim a lake”, much in the same way we all claim a football team! “Go Lake Erie!”Describe one of your favorite classroom experiences/activities associated with the Great Lakes.
As a result of my experience as a 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea, I created “Pond Day”, a collection of teacher-designed activities centered around deployment of the EPA’s Hydrolab data sonde into the Tecumseh Middle School pond. I learned about the Limno Loan program while aboard the EPA’s Lake Guardian on Lake Huron. This program allows teachers in the Great Lakes region to borrow the Hydrolab equipment for two weeks to deploy in a Great Lake with students. I deployed the Hydrolab in a three-foot deep campus pond! Even though the data collected by my students did not come from one of the Great Lakes and we deployed from a rowboat that leaked instead of a large research vessel, the experience of deploying the equipment was exactly the same! Plus, the data we collected will be added to a larger data set, enabling us to compare our tiny pond to all of the data from the lakes.
“Pond Day” activities divided students into six teams, each team with a designated task. The six teams included:
- “The Hydrolab Boat Team”- This team records data, which is sent to shore, from the Hydrolab probe (deployed by a teacher from the Tecumseh Local School District row boat).
- “The Shoreline Team”- This team collects and records data regarding conditions on the pond’s shoreline (pH, temperature, and macroinvertebrate aquatic life used as biological indicators).
- “The Litter Survey Team”- This team maps, charts and analyzes litter and debris found near the pond. The litter was later collected, and disposed. Our litter data collected around our pond was compared to the data collected by the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup event.
- “The Micro-Habitat Team”- This team studies small areas of ground cover and soil near and around the pond, recording and mapping observations of biological diversity.
- “The Leaf Snap Team”- This team gathers leaves and data from nearby trees and bushes. Digital images and an app known as “Leaf Snap” are use to identify and map the trees and bushes surrounding the pond.
- “The Wildlife Survey Team”- This team identifies and records evidence (visual sightings, nesting sites, food items, scat characteristics, tracks and trails) of wildlife near the pond.
During the classroom meetings that followed “Pond Day”, teams assembled, debriefed, compared, analyzed and shared data, and discussed the meaning of their findings. Teams also had the opportunity to reflect and journal about their work using a variety of media outlets.What teaching methods do you use to engage students in Great Lakes activities?
I try to keep myself as up to date on Great Lakes issues as possible. I have taken many classes at Ohio State/ Ohio Sea Grant’s Stone Laboratory. I read Sea Grant publications as well as a publication out of Bowling Green State University called Blue Water Satellite. I host “Climate Change” luncheons for my students where we watch, listen and participate in a monthly webinar produced by the Climate Outreach team from Ohio Sea Grant. These webinars most always focus on the effects global climate change has on the Great Lakes region. Keeping myself up to date on the issues that affect the Great Lakes allows me to “incorporate on the fly.” I also use multiple lessons from published curriculum from a few of the Sea Grant offices. This year, my students are registered for the Ocean 180 video-judging contest out of COSEE Florida. Middle school students from around the world will be voting on the best video submitted by a scientist doing current ocean research. I am hopeful that a contest just like this will soon come out of the Great Lakes.If relevant, share some examples of how you involved scientist(s) in your teaching.
I have had many opportunities to do field work with top scientists. I’ve studied climate change in the arctic with Earthwatch, participated in the Lake Erie Water Snake recovery program on the islands of Lake Erie, studied geology and biodiversity in the Grand Tetons, studied aboard the EPA’s Lake Guardian in Lake Huron, and chased Northern Right Whales aboard the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. I’ve made a hobby out of collecting scientists. One of the most valuable concepts that I seem to always take away from my own field experiences is the relentless drive of a scientist collecting field data. I don’t think I will ever be able to fully describe the passion and rugged determination that is exhibited by a field biologist going after the prize. It’s an intense experience. During my Teacher at Sea appointment, I described the scientists on board the Gordon Gunter as superheroes in my blog in an attempt to describe the work they do. “Many people know that my hobby is “collecting scientists”! I have a rather eclectic sampling of amazing people that I have acquired through the years. Each one of them has an amazing supernatural ability that sets them apart from the normal human. Each of them is a superhero. Watching the scientists on this field experience solidifies my hypothesis. My chief scientist, Allison Henry has the superpower of being able to identify a right whale by glancing at the animal or a photograph the same way I could look at a yearbook and identify a student in my class. This is not a normal skill possessed by regular humans. Scientist, Dave, untangles whales, much like I untangle the Christmas lights each year. Normal people don’t untangle large mammals in the ocean. Aside from possessing supernatural abilities, the new scientists in my collection exude a passion toward their chosen career paths. While these superpowers set them apart, I think that passion is what connects them to us. Maybe my job as an educator is to recognize the passion in each student and encourage him or her to find the superhero within.” When I sense passion and rugged determination being exhibited by my students when they are collecting field data, or even completing a simple lab, then I know I have successfully integrated what I learned from scientists into the lives of my students.Please share some interesting student reflections on ways they have developed a stewardship ethic. Include how they inspired others to make a difference to improve the health of the Great Lakes watershed.
Student reflections on Pond Day:
“TMS Pond Day was sweet because we split up into groups. The team I was on was the boat team. We helped probe the pond. My teacher got stuck in the benthos layer!” by: Your Probing Student, Steven
“TMS Pond Day was very fun because I got to learn something new and I learned that our school pond’s deepest depth was only 0.6 meters and that someday it might turn into a marsh.” Brandon
“TMS Pond Day was interesting because we learned so much about our pond. We learned things that we wouldn’t have known without the HydroLab. Not only did we do stuff with the HydroLab that was interesting, but we also broke up into six groups. I was in the wildlife group. We went around the pond and surveyed all the wildlife that we saw or things that indicated wildlife. The group that I thought was most interesting that wasn’t my group was the beach litter team. I though it was the most interesting because I didn’t think there would be that much litter, but there was. I think it would be cool to do it again in the spring and see all the different changes. Bre
“TMS Pond Day was educational because I was able to learn more about the ecosystem that I live near. Using the HydroLab, I was able to learn about the dissolved oxygen level and the turbidity of our pond at school. Not only did I learn about the pond, I also learned about the surrounding area from the different teams we had. We tested how much litter on the shore there is (which was surprisingly a lot), the living species in and around the pond. It was a great experience that I probably won’t have again. Chloe’