June Teisan

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

The Great Lakes hold the largest supply of our world’s fresh water. The most fresh water in any given spot across our vast planet!!! So through vibrant, place-based lake literacy lessons I want to nurture capable, competent, caring stewards of this vast, irreplaceable resource. Our students, tomorrow’s citizens and leaders, need brain-brimming knowledge about and a heartfelt connection to our Great Lakes. My goal is to expose my urban students to the wonders of our Great Lakes to spark a lifelong interest in preserving these resources while at the same time open doors to the possibility of careers in STEM fields

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

For years I have partnered with a number of stewardship organizations in authoring grants that would bring my students to the shorelines and marshes, sailing on the rivers and lakes. Watching and hearing my urban learners experience the beauty and complexities of our lakes always, always makes the long hours of crafting grants and forging partnerships worthwhile. On one occasion in particular, I was on the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford estate, chatting with my exuberant cohort of middle school aquatic investigators. One student turned to me, and with a tone of awe, pointed to a freighter that was passing in the distance and said “Is that where we were Mrs. Teisan? Waaaaaay out there this summer?” She hugged me, thanked me, and told all the new students how we had spent a whole day on a big boat using a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to look for shipwrecks. Waaay out there! While onboard we’d studied the distant shoreline with binoculars, picking out landmarks in the city, and she was connecting that particular trip to this specific place and time. It may seem a simple connection – we were out there on the waves, we could see this place from the boat – but for urban students in particular, those sensory-rich, multi-layered experiences are often a luxury that their families cannot afford to provide.

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

Would a student rather learn chemistry by reading a textbook in a classroom or study pH and other water quality parameters while sailing on an 84 foot schooner on the Great Lakes? If you could choose between a worksheet showing sketches of macro invertebrates or go digging through lake-bottom leaf litter to capture your own set of critters, which would grab you? I have found that authentic, exhilarating, challenge-based learning wins out every time and has brought science to life for urban middle school students in my district.

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

A fresh voice, an expert perspective, a new and friendly face to spark interest: I’ve always welcomed guests to partner in my work with students. I’ve hosted face-to-face mentoring sessions and digital coaching through Skype and Facetime.

We’ve taken student groups to the marshes for place-based investigations led by naturalists, bird watching on local shorelines with Audubon Society guides and staff from Wild Birds Unlimited. http://grossepointewoods.wbu.com/content/show/97394

Sonia Joseph Joshi from NOAA GLERL (Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory) traveled to my school to coach our water research teams


Gerry Wykes, Mike George, and Michelle Serreyn of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks volunteered their time as ‘authentic audience’ members for student-scientist presentations.


Steve Stewart of Michigan Sea Grant has been our partner in all-things-aquatic; co-authoring grants, welcoming student crews on Summer Discovery Cruises, and coaching kids during our buoy deployment days. http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/sdc/

Penny Vlahos of UConn shared her cutting-edge EVA-plate sampling technology (ethylene vinyl acetate) on a conference call, training students to test for harmful chemicals in our lakes.


The St. Clair Shores Waterfront Advisory Committee invited our students to share their research at their annual municipal meetings http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/scswateradvisory/

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.

One of my student teams summed it up best: “As young citizen-scientists, we want to start important conversations and actions that will preserve the health of our lakes.”


Two of my student research cadres pushed beyond the ‘class time’ activities, committing hours outside of the school day to investigate water quality more extensively. Their websites reveal the depth of their commitment and achievement http://pollutionpreventers.weebly.com/benefits.html AND http://eckh2o.weebly.com/photo-gallery.html If you’re a 13 year old student who started the school year with no background in research and you earn national accolades and a $1,200 check for your water quality investigations, would the idea of college and a possible career in the STEM fields be cast in a more positive light? As teachers we need to dream big dreams with our students, show them the world that is outside their door here in the Great Lakes region. In this way we help them step out of the ordinary and the everyday to help make those dreams a reality.