Lynn Kurth

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

I feel it is my responsibility to teach my students about the Great Lakes because I consider the Great Lakes to be one of the most important natural resources. I recognize what a valuable resource fresh water is and increasingly will be as the world’s population increases and climate change continues to impact the water quality of the Great Lakes. The students I teach are the folks who are going to make important decisions regarding the future care of the Great Lakes. I cannot be a good teacher or good citizen without addressing the topic of the Great Lakes.

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

The most recent favorite classroom experience I have involves the shoreline restoration that my students completed on the Prairie River this year. For the past several years, my students have been monitoring the water quality of the river with a Hydrolab on loan from IL/IN Sea Grant. However, this year the experience was expanded to include the study of how shoreline restoration can have a positive impact on water quality. As a result, students learned about aquatic and terrestrial invasives and the impact of climate change on lakes and rivers. Following this, my students spent several days removing the invasive species they found on the shoreline and they built terraces to stop erosion from occurring. I have never seen my students work as hard as they did on this shoreline restoration project. I knew the project was a success when students who were typically not actively engaged in school were asking if they could come and work on the project after school. I really feel like I make a difference in the lives of my students through our water quality work.

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

I believe that I am an effective teacher when my students are engaged and involved in meaningful learning experiences. For example, the restoration of the river bank was a meaningful experience because it involved something that the students could feel a sense of pride in as the work was being completed and noticed by others in the community.

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

My students will be sharing their data with a Great Lakes scientist this spring via a Skype session.

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.

From student surveys:

“We really made a difference when we removed all the invasive species from the riverbank of the Prairie River. I brought my grandma to the park to see the river after we were done and explained to her how our project helped the water quality of the river.”

“I explained to my mom that micro beads get washed into the water and eventually find their way into the river and lakes. My mom won’t buy soap with micro beads in it now.”