Hands-on environmental workshop offered to educators

Teachers from a past session work on an aquatic food chain study. Photo: Lyndsey Manzo.

Teachers from a past session work on an aquatic food chain study. Photo: Lyndsey Manzo.

Many teachers may not think twice about dumping the contents of the class aquarium into a stream when the school year is through.

Now, while living on an island in Lake Erie, they can learn why that’s a bad idea.

The Great Lakes Education Workshop, which incorporates Great Lakes environmental issues into teachers’ curriculums, is offered for the first time in three years, thanks to a recent Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant.

It is an interdisciplinary course where teachers can take part in field work and hands-on labs, said Rosanne Fortner, who heads the Ohio State University-based program. Held at Stone Laboratory at Lake Erie, teachers meet researchers and gain access to EPA equipment while living on the islands of Lake Erie.

The workshop, offered July 21-27, is intended for teachers in grades 4-12, as well as those in informal education settings. Teachers from any area are welcome to apply by completing this application.

While the workshop attracts primarily science teachers, Fortner said that it enhances the teaching of any subject from history to language arts.

“How about teaching food chains with a board game about what it takes to harvest a walleye?” she said. “No study of weather should exclude an investigation of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and no account of U.S. history would be complete without the Battle of Lake Erie.”

Ten scholarships are offered to offset costs. The course can also count as two graduate credits. But the one-of-a-kind learning experience is the main attraction.

“Personally, I hope teachers will leave this experience as excited as we are about the importance of Great Lakes Literacy,” Fortner said.

And what the teachers learn, they pass to their students.

“The more that our course participants know about why the lakes are important, the more likely their students are to become good stewards of our water resources,” she said.

About Becky McKendry

Becky McKendry is an undergraduate senior at Michigan State University studying journalism with a concentration in editorial reporting. With almost eight years of professional publishing experience, she has previously worked for a variety of media outlets - as a production assistant for the WKAR radio news program "Current State," a sports columnist for the Marshalltown Chronicle, an interviewer for author Chuck Palahniuk's official website and more. Currently, she also works as Assistant Bureau Chief for the newswire Capital News Service, with a focus on covering the civil rights and human services, primarily for the Metro Detroit and Lansing areas.