Learning about the lakes

HOUGHTON – Twelve middle school, high school and community college teachers took to the classroom – and the lake, river, creek and canal – to learn more about the Great Lakes. The teachers came to Michigan Technological University this week to learn from the experts during the Great Lakes Watershed Investigations Teachers Institute, with the intent of bringing their newfound knowledge home to their students.

“We have teachers who have come from all over Michigan and one from Indiana, so they all live near one of the Great Lakes,” said Joan Chadde, education program coordinator at Michigan Tech. “What we want to help them develop is activities and curriculum that they can use with their students that is interdisciplinary – usually focused on science, social studies and math – that will help develop students’ interest and appreciation for the Great Lakes and promote stewardship.”

Throughout the week the teachers have the opportunity to ride aboard Michigan Tech’s research vessel the Agassiz, analyze organisms and dissect fish in a lab in the Great Lakes Research Center and take field trips to local lakes for monitoring and testing. At each step, the teachers are learning and discussing how to teach the ideas and methods to their students.

“We’re also looking at how do scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes and oftentimes that’s by starting with a watershed at a local stream. That’s something that is more accessible to students,” Chadde said.

Wyatt Stevens, an eighth grade earth science teacher from Lapeer, Michigan, is attending three of Michigan Tech’s Teachers Institutes this summer. Everything he has learned so far, he said, he can bring back to his classroom.

“I honestly did not know all of this was available up here … everything is what I teach in class,” he said.

Although the concepts are similar, he said he is learning new things and activities that will fit in well with his curriculum and hopefully engage his students.

“A lot of these are hands-on activities. It really engages the kids and that’s the important part. It’s a lot of grouping as well which really engages the students,” Stevens said.

Each teacher will receive tools to take with them back to their classroom, including maps, field guides, activity books with over 100 hands-on experiments for students and books such as the water quality unit produced by the Western U.P. Math and Science Center.