Carly Ziegler

Home state: Wisconsin
Organization or Facility: Edgewood Campus School
Grade(s): 7 and 8
Subject(s): Science
Why do you think it's important to infuse Great Lakes topics in education?

Infusing Great Lakes topics into our curriculum helps students see topics from their core subjects in the world around them. As educators, we want students to be able to connect what they are learning in class with their lives outside our classroom walls. The ecology of the Great Lakes is a perfect way to do this–everything is connected. From the chemical properties of pollutants, to invasive species, to labor and agriculture, our students make observations and can explain the science behind engaging topics. Ultimately, this makes them more informed citizens who are ready to engage in the greater world.

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

Our school is on a small urban lake in Madison, Wisconsin. Although our tiny lake has many differences to the Great Lakes, the basic limnological principles are similar. One of my favorite activities is sampling for zooplankton in the winter months. Students use an ice auger to drill holes and gather samples. When we peak through the microscope every student (myself, too!) is shocked to see how much life is present in the icy cold water. Science is active, fun, and surprising!

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

In our classroom we focus on two big methods. First, we engage students with outside education. Students do the collecting. We get out to our lake at least once a month to look at plant zones, soil structure, water chemical analysis, zooplankton, or macroinvertebrates. Half the fun is the collection! The other method we employ is long term data collection. Students gather these samples frequently and are able to analyze and observe trends in our data. We continue to improve our methods each year.

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

Sea Grant has been so generous to connect us with real scientists in the field. We have had Zoom calls with several scientists, both in their labs and in the field, who share their research with us. Students are excited to see that these scientists are studying the same principles that we are. We particularly love when we get to see a scientist aboard the Lake Guardian, an EPA research vessel. So many of our students get excited about seeing science careers as an adventurous choice to make.

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.

When we study we observe. When we observe, we develop relationships. And through these relationships, we begin to care. When students study lakes and their ecological homes, a direct correlation can be seen to caring. This is how stewardship is born. I get to see this amazing transformation in my students. Students finish our first unit on limnology by participating in a service project that relates to our lake community in some way. In the past students have been involved in garbage pick up, invasive species removal, geese heckling, and other citizen science volunteer activities.

Contact Carly Ziegler: [email protected]