“A Transformative Whirlwind Comes to an End”

July 24, 2019

The morale on the boat was a bit different this morning and was palpable as soon as we got to breakfast.  The crew was already busy completing their chores in preparation for the next group of scientists that will be coming aboard tomorrow morning.  Everyone else seemed to be a bit morose as the realization that this amazing adventure is finally coming to a close. Derek, the chef, made an amazing breakfast of pancakes, sausage, bacon, and eggs again and many joked about having to go back to the real world and start cooking for themselves again. 








After breakfast, we all started the process of rounding up all of our belongings that have managed to get scattered around the ship during the week.  Next up were the final group presentations. Each group provided an overview of their project and its findings. The Ninja Nurdles were studying microplastics in Lake Erie.  Team Cyano studied harmful algal blooms, diatoms and chlorophyll concentrations around the lake. The Cladoceran group studied zooplankton prevalence. After the group presentations, we participated in a wrap-up activity where each person grabbed a random item from a bag and had to relate it to our week on the Guardian.  It was an easy activity that we can use with our own students to review a concept or activity.  

It is hard to believe that the week is over and it is time to go back to reality.  Back to summer jobs, family responsibilities and preparing for the upcoming school year.  Lyndsey, Angie, and Kristin had a heap of educational goodies that they passed out for us to take back to school as we all parted ways.  

A small group of us stuck around for a behind the scenes tour of the Denis Sullivan at the Tall Ships Festival before saying our final goodbyes. 

Thoughts from Missi and Thomas . . . 

This week could be best described as a transformative whirlwind! 

As I sit here on Tuesday morning, nearly two days after leaving the R/V Lake Guardian, I am still having a hard time accepting that last week was a reality. I say this not because last week was not enjoyable, rather, last week was the fulfillment of one of my childhood dreams. From the age of about seven, I have always been fascinated by science, nature, and the world around me. I would often go outside to “investigate” local ecosystems with my $10 Fisher-Price scientist kit. I would gather insect samples, look at surrounding plant life, and make observations that inevitably led to me asking my dad one million questions. As I became older, I absolutely loved school because it gave me an avenue to investigate problems, learn about issues, and probably most importantly, become inspired by some of the most amazing teachers.

As the son of two educators, you could say I was practically born into teaching. I entertained many ideas of what I wanted to do with my life throughout middle school and high school, however, two stuck out more than all the others. I wanted to continue to learn about the world I live in through research, outdoor exploration, and travel but I also wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to be able to be the inspirational person, leader, and personal champion for my future students just like some of my former teachers had been to me.

One member of our team this past week asked me after I created a particularly goofy video, “Do your students love having you in class?” My answer was this, yes, I think that most of them do enjoy taking my class because I believe learning should be fun. I break down barriers by being goofy, silly, and making students laugh but I also know when to make learning more serious to create a well balanced, positive, supportive learning environment for all of my students. Some people, a few coworkers included, say that I am crazy and that my classroom can be chaotic, yet, almost every student and parent that I see years later tell me how much they or their son/daughter miss my class. 21st-century education shouldn’t be sitting in a desk for 50 minutes only speaking when called on, that’s not what our students need. They need to be engaged, having fun, and creating lasting memories inside our classrooms. This past week on the Lake Guardian has enabled me to realize that my two dreams of completing research and teaching are not mutually exclusive. Participating in the program this past week has not only re-energized me as an educator, but it has also made me appreciate how lucky I am to be able to have such rewarding opportunities as a middle school science teacher. So often, teachers get into a routine, myself included, and forget to make learning unique for our students.

I think that I can speak for all of us on this trip when I say this: our experiences over this past week and the friendships that we have built will have a significant positive impact on our classrooms and our students for years to come. I will be forever thankful for the crew, leaders, and fellow educators who made this week such an inspiring and incredible experience. Let’s try to make our classrooms an environment where our students can feel the same way that we do now after spending the week together for this amazing adventure! Take the time to be the goofy, nerdy, teacher from time to time. Even if you teach older students, everybody enjoys a good laugh from time to time. Let’s be unique and spread our passion for the environment to those that we teach!

– Missi Kowalski and Thomas deHaas (July 14, 2019)