Mark Koschmann

Home state: Michigan
Organization or Facility: St. John's Lutheran School, Midland, MI
Grade(s): 6-8
Subject(s): Science
Why do you think it's important to infuse Great Lakes topics in education?

I want my students to know about their environment and how we affect it. Our school is in walking distance to the Titabawwassee River. The river is part of the Lake Huron watershed so what we do to the river ends up in the lake. Our drinking water comes from Lake Huron and our water filtration also eventually ends up in the lake. Like I tell my students, “We are drinking our waste.”  We also had the dams break on the Titabawwassee River this year (2020) which flooded our city as well as those downstream. What happens to our river has a very significant effect on lake.

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

My students go on a canoe trip in the spring (not in 2020 ☹). During our trip we conduct chemical testing, biological testing, and look at the physical layout of the Chippewa River. After the canoe trip we walk down to the Tridge (the name of the wooden footbridge where the Chippewa River meets the Tittabawassee River). We use the H2O program (sponsored by Central Michigan University) for our chemical test as well as the hydrolab from the Limno Loan Program facilitated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Center for Great Lakes Literacy, and the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. For our biological test and physical layout we use Hoosier Riverwatch Program. We then go back to school and compare the results to the earlier years. The students love doing the hands-on work and visiting with their friends outside of the classroom. Our results are sent to Central Michigan University. We also participate in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Salmon in the Classroom program. We go to Manistee, Michigan to receive our salmon eggs, and when we are done raising the fish, we release them in the Chippewa River.

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

I use many different teaching methods for our water unit. I do demonstrations for understanding our watershed (Sea Grant) and for how to chemical test (H2O Program). To look at our watershed, we use Google Maps to see where our water is coming from and where it will end up. After demonstrating chemical testing, I have the students test our pond at school and the aquariums in my classroom. We then make comparisons and explain the differences. I use the Hoosier Riverwatch Manuel to explain biological and physical properties of the river. Our canoe trip is when the students use hands-on method by using different methods (D-ring nets, river seines) to collect macroinvertebrates as well as testing the chemicals. This year we had floods due to the dam breaks on the Titabawwassee River. The water testing results this year will be interesting to compare to the previous years.

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

During the Covid crisis when we were doing virtual classes, the 8th grade students wrote a chapter for a book about water chemistry. We were asked to write this chapter after they presented their finding at a H2O Water Chemistry Presentation at Dow Diamond in the spring of 2019. We needed to interview Tracy Page, the Coordinator of Salmon in the Classroom Michigan DNR, to get information about our salmon and what they needed to survive. We needed information about the book chapter and we talked to Heinz Plaumann from Wayne State University to verify what we needed to do. We used Michigan Clean Water Corps to compare our results to Michigan water data.

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.

My classes have presented their findings to professionals at the American Chemical Society conference and the H2O Water Chemistry Presentation at Dow Diamond. I’ve had students go into water quality and chemistry at the university level and are currently involved in those fields. A high school student that I had said, “My fondest memory of St. John’s is Mr. Koschmann’s canoe trip on the Chippewa. We not only got out on the river with friends, we got to do science out there. Using what we learned in class is awesome and it is important for the health of our watershed.”

Contact Mark Koschmann: [email protected]