School is back in session and that means science teachers across southern Lake Michigan will be turning their sights to the Great Lakes. For the AP Environmental Science class at Zion-Benton Township High School, though, the issues facing nearby Lake Michigan have been in focus since the start of the year.
Their teacher, Alex Stavropoulos, got the idea for some of his classroom and field activities after spending a week aboard the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian this summer for the annual Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop. Alex wrote in to tell us what his class has been up to.
Towards the beginning of the school year, my class spent about a month on our “Aquatic Habitats and Biodiversity” unit. After exploring the general nature of aquatic systems (both marine and freshwater), we took a closer look at our local water systems, specifically Lake Michigan. During this time, we discussed the history of the Great Lakes, identified the various ways in which humans have used and altered the makeup of the Great Lakes, spent two days conducting water-quality testing and macro-invertebrate sampling (using both biotic and abiotic indicators to compare water quality in various tributaries to that of the mouths in which they fed into Lake Michigan), and debated plausible methods to prevent invasive species such as the Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.Throughout this entire unit, I found myself regularly referencing experiences I had during the Lake Guardian summer workshop. The experiences not only allowed me to better explain the complexity of some of these issues, but it also opened my students’ eyes to hands-on opportunities available in the world of science. It taught me a great deal about the Great Lakes, but, more importantly, it improved my ability to teach students about the Lakes’ significance. I hope this program continues to be funded for years to come as it is a wonderful way of spreading both knowledge and passion regarding the importance of preserving the gift that is the Great Lakes.
This year’s workshop will take place on Lake Erie. Keep an eye on our blog in the coming months for more details and application information.