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Students Ask Scientists

The Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy hosts Students Ask Scientists video calls to connect classrooms across the Great Lakes region with scientists from a range of agencies and academic institutions. During these virtual encounters, students learn about current research projects and scientific processes being used to monitor and protect the Great Lakes. And they, of course, get to ask scientists all their burning questions about the Great Lakes and what a career in science looks like.

The program allows teachers to provide their students (grades 5-12) an opportunity to talk with real scientists to improve their understanding of the Great Lakes and gain insight into what a career in science entails. Through the calls, students can see first hand how topics they’re learning in the classroom are actually applied out in the field.

Lab/Office Calls (year-round)

Scientists call into classrooms to discuss Great Lakes issues and current research efforts. The format of these calls can be either of the following:

  • A student-driven Q & A session, or
  • A brief presentation from scientists on relevant Great Lakes topics chosen by the teacher, with time for questions and discussion after the presentation.

Lab/office calls are arranged based on the availability of scientists who match with teacher-chosen topics and grade level. Due to the limited number of slots available, calls are arranged on a first-come-first-served basis. These interactions can be arranged using most video conferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom, Google Meets, etc.) to meet the needs of the school, and typically last 30-60 minutes. If you are interested in arranging a Students Ask Scientists lab/office call for your class, fill out the educator signup form to identify a scientist that best meets your classroom’s needs.

Shipboard Calls (late spring, early fall)

Scientists on the US EPA’s R/V Lake Guardian give students a virtual tour of the ship while underway on a research cruise—talking about the current mission, showing off sampling equipment and safety gear, visiting onboard labs and living spaces, and stopping to chat with other scientists and ship crew about living and working on a research vessel.

Ship tour video calls occur as the vessel sampling schedule allows and are typically reserved for CGLL Shipboard Science Workshop alum, but other educators will be accommodated if possible. These calls are scheduled and hosted by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant staff using Zoom, and last approximately 45-60 minutes. If you are interested in arranging a Students Ask Scientists shipboard call for your class, fill out the educator signup form.


Logistics for participating educators

  • Complete the Educator signup form and staff will reach out to coordinate a call.
  • Allow two-four weeks to match and schedule a video chat with your group.
  • Great Lakes topics include but are not limited to, water quality, areas of concern, climate, contaminants, fisheries, food webs, harmful algal blooms, marine debris, plastic pollution, and stormwater management.
  • Please share on social media! Use #GreatLakesSaS and tag any partners involved.

Logistics for participating scientists

  • If you are a Great Lakes scientist interested in being available for future calls, fill out the Scientist signup form to be added to our database.
  • As requests arise, we will use this database to match scientists based on their identified areas of expertise with teachers/classrooms.
  • Please share on social media! Use #GreatLakesSaS and tag any partners involved.


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