Illinois teacher shakes up science class with help from IISG and NOAA

August 12th, 2014 by
Illinois teacher Carol Schnaiter has big plans for her classes at Amboy Central School. Carol was one of 14 teachers to participate in IISG’s B-WET workshop last year. And this summer, she spent two weeks in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the NOAA research vessel Oregon II. Carol wrote in to tell us about her experiences at both, how they have already shaped her curriculum, and what she has planned for her students this year.

“I am constantly looking for workshops, classes, and events that I can attend and bring what I learned back to my class. Each adventure adds to our classroom and allows the students to learn something new. 

I was very excited when I was selected for the B-WET workshop in June of 2013. After the workshop, I added an entire unit on invasive species in the Great Lakes area for the 4th graders and another unit on restoration for the 3rd graders, plus I expanded the watershed unit I was teaching to the third graders. At the end of the units, I invited a guest speaker from the Amboy Marsh, Greg Hunter, to speak to all my classes about the Amboy Marsh and invasive species in our area. We then went to the Amboy Marsh, where the students pulled the invasive Garlic Mustard plant and cleaned away brush. The staff also arranged for guest speakers to talk about turtles, birds, and plants and gave a walking tour of the marsh. My colleagues and I are hoping to continue working with Amboy Marsh when we do our invasive species unit and our restoration unit each year.

The students loved learning about the invasive species! We used the cards from the Sea Grant curricula and played games, such as Beat the Barriers. The students also did research on the various species and used the watch cards. When Mr. Hunter came in to speak, the students had background information on invasive species and were able to connect with what he was discussing.  

This summer, I took part in the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program in the Gulf of Mexico. While on the ship, I worked with NOAA scientists and the crew to learn about the Gulf ecosystems first-hand and watch real science in action. I was on the midnight-to-noon shift for 16 days. We traveled to “stations” across the Gulf where we dropped the trawling net, the bongo nets, and the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) sensors as part of the Groundfish Survey. Once the nets were brought up, we would count, measure, weigh, and record the sex of all the species. Our main objective was to collect information and send it to federal agencies that used it to set the shrimp season and catch limits.

As a result of this experience, I am working on adding more information to our invasive species unit and creating another unit that will have the students trace the water from the Great Lakes watershed to the Gulf of Mexico. We will be following the NOAA Ship Oregon II as they go out for the fall Groundfish Survey and adding that information to the data collected while I was aboard this summer. We will be watching the water’s oxygen levels as the ship travels across the Gulf and will try to figure out what might be the cause of any changes.  

Tying both the B-WET workshop and my experience on a working research ship together will allow the students to see how everyday science is touching our lives.”

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