Pam Evans

Home state: Illinois
Why do you think it's important to infuse Great Lakes topics in education?

I truly believe that if these children are to save the world, they need to know what is around them and become comfortable with it. We can only talk about the Great Lakes since we are not a neighbor, but they can become comfortable with the water and the issues in their neighborhood. This is one of my favorite quotes by Rachel Carson and I want to be this person for my students!

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
Rachel Carson

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

One of my favorite activities we do in class is figuring out our Watershed Address. Unfortunately, we don’t live close enough to Lake Michigan to make frequent visits and we live at the edge of the watershed for the Great Lakes. So we talk about the Watershed and where we are in relation to the big picture. It is an interesting activity. We take it a step further and the students make their own Watershed Islands and study topography maps at the same time. They create their island and draw how the water will flow, then create a topography map from their island.

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

Since we can’t get to Lake Michigan easily, we do water based activities closer to home. Each fall, and sometimes spring, we have the privilege of using the Hydrolab from the EPA. This is a great tool that the students can use. It is really neat for them to get their hands on a piece of equipment used by real scientists! We also participate in Stream Discovery. While one group uses the Hydrolab, another group is sweeping the bottom with a D-net to see what benthic organisms are living there. We also look at what is in the water and take a sight survey of the surroundings. We then report our findings to the Field Scope data base. We visit our place on the stream 3 times a year, and eventually we will have continuous data to look at and analyze. Next year, I hope to add another site so both of the classes I teach will have a place to call their own. At some point, we will also add a Saturday event where parents can join their students at the creek and see what they are doing. I talk to them a lot about my “cruise” on the R/V Lake Guardian and how the activities we do in class are similar to what we did on board the ship.

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

This year we have had 3 unique experiences with scientists. First, we visited with the Education Officer and scientists aboard the JOIDES Resolution. They were off the coast of Japan and mapping what they believe to be the world’s largest single volcano. It was extra special because they had an image made for the students that no one else in the world had seen before. The second visit was with the Education Officer and scientists aboard the R/V Falkor. They were doing research on layers of the ocean floor off the coast of the Maldives. Our third visit was with two of the scientists that travel on the R/V Lake Guardian each year and work at the EPA office in Chicago in the off season.

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.

Each year we participate in the IL EPA Poetry/Poster/Prose contest. There is a different theme each year which really gets the students thinking about different topics and how they can make a difference no matter how small. I try to instill in them that every action causes a reaction and that the reaction may not always be a positive one. They have to be really conscious of the choices they are making.

Student Reflections:

Mrs. Evans has helped me because I have never really enjoyed the outdoors. Now, I enjoy sampling and playing in streams, and other things outside.

Mrs. Evans helps me because she does a lot of hands on activities and field trips. I am a visual learner and enjoy field trips.

Mrs. Evans has  helped me because she makes sure we understand our environment and why we need to learn about it.

Mrs. Evans has helped me because she shows us actual world problems and how we can change it.

Contact Pam Evans: pevans@charleston.k12.il.us