A group of seventh graders in Buffalo, New York are gearing up for a different kind of science class. On Monday, students will take a break from their regular activities to video chat with Great Lakes scientists and discuss issues like water chemistry, food webs, and pollution. And after spending the fall monitoring water quality in their local rivers, they have a lot of questions.
It’s all part of a joint program with IISG and the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office that gives students a chance to collect data on water characteristics like dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH. The monitoring equipment is similar to the sensors used aboard the EPA research vessel Lake Guardian.
The Nichols Middle School students have worked throughout the year on projects related to field work done in the fall, and they plan to collect new samples next week. But before they return to the field, they will “sit down” with EPA scientists Glenn Warren, Eric Osantowski, and Beth Hinchey Malloy.
Each of the three classes will have roughly 20 minutes to ask questions about their fall data, the connections between different water characteristics, and the impact of human activities on Great Lakes health. They will also have a chance to talk about the ins and outs of being an aquatic scientist and the education those careers require.
Sandy Cunningham, the students’ teacher, has used the Hydrolab for several years and is one of three teachers to participate in the IISG-hosted video chats this year. Superior Middle School’s Stephanie Francis and Lesley Zylstra, a fifth grade teacher in Milwaukee, also used the monitoring equipment and conversations with scientists to boost their aquatic science sections. All three were introduced to the program, along with other classroom resources, during workshops coordinated by IISG.
Monday’s is the last videocast before summer break, but IISG’s Kristin TePas hopes to continue the event next year, each month with a different teacher.
*Students analyze water samples from local streams. Photos courtesy of Sandy Cunningham.