Teachers bring Great Lakes science explorations back to school

Michigan educators team up with scientists to explore how Great Lakes science stewardship opportunities can enhance student learning.

Teachers from across Michigan took part in the four-day Lake Huron Place-Based Education Summer Teacher Institute. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Teachers from across Michigan took part in the four-day Lake Huron Place-Based Education Summer Teacher Institute. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

As a new school year gets underway, 20 teachers from across the Lake Huron watershed and beyond, have prepared to expand their students’ learning experiences by developing Great Lakes science and stewardship experiences. In August 2016, they participated in the 2016 Lake Huron Place-Based Education Summer Teacher Institute, hosted in Oscoda, Mich., where they explored local woodland, water, and schoolyard habitats alongside Great Lakes scientists.

Watershed explorations had teachers spending a day learning about the important values of our aquatic ecosystems from coastal Lake Huron beaches and wetland habitats to the Pine River and Van Etten Lake. Teachers conducted a variety of biological, physical, and chemical watershed investigations with Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension scientists, among others.

With NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, educators saw how students can build underwater robots – and then apply them in water studies. They also explored the issue of marine debris pollution with the Alliance for the Great Lakes and NOAA Marine Debris Program experts.

Another theme brought focus to the schoolyard and teachers visited Oscoda Area Schools where they explored schoolyard project sites that engaged students in environmental stewardship projects without wandering too far from the school campus. They explored schoolyard gardens, visited AuSable River field sites where they partner with US Forest Service to manage invasive Garlic Mustard plants, and learned about student water studies partnerships with Alliance for the Great Lakes and local Pine River/Van Etten Lake Watershed Coalition.

Workshop participants also met with school and community partners. They gained information and resources from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ecologists relating to their Schoolyard Habitat curriculum; and experienced iNaturalist (a biodiversity conservation citizen-science application) and Monarch Watch (another citizen-science opportunity).

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension educators teamed up with scientists, youth education partners, and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network to offer this workshop. Also participating were educators from across Michigan traveling from the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition(SEMIS), the Grand Learning Network, Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative, among other interested school districts. Funding for this workshop was provided through the Great Lakes Fishery Trust’s Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and Great Lakes Sea Grant Network’s Center for Great Lakes Literacy, with support through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Throughout the workshop educators were challenged to connect science learning experiences with student stewardship action. Education experts from the Michigan State University Extension and Eastern Michigan University challenged educators to consider how place-based education, as a teaching and learning process, could help enhance school improvement or learning goals, connect with new Michigan Science Standards, foster school-community partnerships or even allow students to have more ‘student voice’ in their own learning experiences.

The end goal for teachers was to explore opportunities for expanding student learning – and connections with community – by engaging their students in local Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship projects. It was an exciting week for teachers, exploring Great Lakes literacy and learning through place-based education stewardship practices.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.