Every spring, The Sun Foundation invites students, teachers, community leaders, and the general public to attend the Clean Water Celebration at the Peoria Civic Center. Through engaging hands-on activities and exhibits, this gathering encourages students and the public to learn how to improve water quality, to think critically and creatively about water conservation issues, and to protect and sustain our natural resources.
IISG educators, Terri Hallesy and Kirsten Walker, challenged students to tackle the issue of Asian carp invading new areas through IISG’s “Stop Asian Carp in Their Tracks” activity, a video about Asian carp in Illinois, and the website Nab the Aquatic Invader!
Presenters shared information about how this troublesome invader competes with native fish by eating lots of phytoplankton and zooplankton, the base of the food chain. Students learned how carp – which can weigh up to 60 pounds – become startled by boat motors and jump out of the water, smacking nearby boaters and anglers.
In small groups, students also discussed the location of Asian carp’s native habitat, how they arrived in the Midwest, and strategies to help reduce their populations. Students gained an understanding about the ways in which invasive species are introduced, the competitive advantages they have in their new ecosystems, and their huge impact on an area’s natural biodiversity.
As a result of these activities, students were equipped as agents for change to engage family and community members in understanding how they, too, can play an important role in stopping the spread of aquatic invaders.
With over 200 sessions spanning three days and an Exhibit Hall featuring leaders in the STEM industry, the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. Conference is the premier professional development and networking opportunity for science teachers in Indiana. This year, science teacher Jed Freels shared lessons learned over his 34-year teaching career.
Jed was one of 15 teachers who worked alongside scientists on the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian on the Lake Michigan Shipboard Science cruise this past summer. His enthusiasm and captivating style clearly represent his teaching goal: You should feel good about yourself and the job you’re doing.
“You are the scientist and the classroom is your lab,” he stated. “What do your students see when they walk in your class? Is there something new, different, and engaging that wasn’t there before? Does your room convey a sense of passion and enthusiasm about science?
“It’s essential to keep students on their toes. The challenge for teachers is to constantly keep them guessing about what to anticipate next. Your role is to encourage kids to become scientists—to do science, not just talk about it.”
Jed came with great examples of going the extra mile—volunteering at organizations to make connections and obtain educational resources; or finding a research project that you can be a part of as a volunteer. Once you’ve established a partnership, he explained, reach out and ask if the organization or researcher would be willing to provide your students with materials or a field-based experience.
He prompted teachers to be the gateway to our park systems. “Take an active photo of yourself at a local park and share the picture with your students to provide an opportunity for them to see you as a scientist.
“Think locally about your field-based experiences. Sometimes it is the smallest thing that will spark your student’s interest in you as a scientist.”
While on the Lake Guardian this past summer, Jed took the opportunity to record a video series, Science Quest, for the classroom and beyond.
–By Terri Hallesy, IISG education coordinator, pictured above with Jed Freels (and a skeleton).