Michele L. Huppert

Home state: Wisconsin Organization or Facility: Menomonie High School Primary age group(s) with whom you work: Grades 10 through 12
Why do you think it's important to infuse Great Lakes topics in education?

I include aspects of the Great Lakes Literacy Principles into every class I teach because water resources are critical to our quality of life in so many ways: food, recreation, transportation, industry, electrical generation, and simply staying alive. Our modern lives can often make people feel disconnected from the natural world, but I find my enthusiasm for all things water-related seems a contagious passion. Whether it is sharing a beautiful day in a kayak or on the ice with students, finding meaning in local water quality data, or community activism to encourage wise management choices, my students always seem eager to learn more about the Great Lakes and local water issues.

Describe one of your favorite classroom experiences/activities associated with the Great Lakes.

In a high school Water Science course I taught, we spent a field day each year assessing and comparing the water quality and ecology of our local waters including the river upstream of a reservoir, the reservoir itself, the river below the dam, and the river below the local sewage treatment plant. Students came away from the experience with a great appreciation for how human activity such as damming rivers, water use, and land development can significantly change aquatic systems over just a few river miles. Many students chose to continue this type of research into other local waterways. My students also learned about Great Lakes issues and how they compare to our local waters. They played the Great Lakes game, used the Great Lakes Atlas as a case study for limnological as well as socioeconomic concepts. They learned why, as citizens of Wisconsin, it is important for us to understand how to protect the vast resources of the Great Lakes.

What teaching methods do you use to engage students in Great Lakes activities?

I want students to actively DO science, not passively learn about science. We get into the field to collect and analyze data addressing student-driven questions and actively debate potential solutions to current issues such as invasive species, water use, sustainable fisheries, etc.

If relevant, share some examples of how you involved scientist(s) in your teaching.

Through the Lake Sturgeon Bowl, a National Ocean Sciences Bowl competition hosted by UW-Milwaukee, I have had the opportunity to take dozens of students on award trips on the R/V Neeskay with Dr. Russell Cuhel and Dr. Carmen Aguilar-Diaz. My high school students have been able to collect and analyze water, sediment, and biological samples; study the distribution of zebra and quagga mussels; help operate an ROV and CTD to collect data and samples, produce a carbon budget for Lake Michigan, and bring those skills home to apply them to local waterways.

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.

My former students have been inspired to fight for the wise management of our local western Wisconsin waterways, the Great Lakes, and the global oceans.  While working  careers in environmental engineering, medicine, pharmacy, marine sciences, architecture, video game design, creative writing, genetics, business, material science, physics, and many other fields, they carry with them a deep understanding and respect for the importance of the Great Lakes and all aquatic systems.

Some comments from former students:

“My involvement in cruises to collect water samples and map Milwaukee Harbor have steered my interests toward the field of fisheries biology. While at Carleton College, I am delving into hands-on research and taking advantage of the opportunity to travel to Australia to study marine ecology.”

“Being a part of your National Ocean Science Bowl team ultimately led to me getting paid to SCUBA dive to find this >500 year old coral from Woleai in Micronesia. I’m very serious when I say that being a part of the NOSB helped me get here.  It was basically what helped me realize how much I loved oceanography.  It was also the reason why I pursued marine science and climate research in high school and college, and continue to do so in grad school.”  (See Image 8)

“Disappearing Lakes was my favorite topic in my freshwater science class in high school. Thanks for teaching me how freaky crazy cool the natural world is and how important it is to protect it!”

Contact Michele L. Huppert: Michele_Huppert@msd.k12.wi.us