“Thank you for providing an awesome, informative, and very educational workshop,” said one teacher after last month’s B-WET field experience. “It was extremely helpful to me and, as a result, I feel very confident in addressing my students regarding the Great Lakes, knowing that now I have a plethora of resources, information, lessons, etc. at my disposal.”
All of the attendees at this year’s B-WET Field Experiences for Watershed Educators workshop shared similar positive feedback on the experience, and were genuinely excited at the opportunity to expand their science lessons. IISG’s education team led last month’s four-day training for teachers in Illinois and Indiana, where participants gained new hands-on skills and knowledge from invited speakers to take back to their classrooms.
Teachers got to see a number of practices in action, including habitat restoration at Cowles Bog, a remediated and revitalized Roxana Marsh, water quality testing at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum pond, and more. They also got their hands dirty planting native species and performing a beach cleanup.
The workshop was designed explicitly to provide educators with a way to connect classroom concepts and scientific principles with real-world examples of watershed stewardship in action. Teachers engaged in fieldwork and collaborated with participating agency and organization educators who shared their program examples. As a result, teachers will be able to offer their students information that complements their science curricula. Additionally, the workshop gave them a chance to brainstorm new activities and lessons they could use with their students this fall.
Terri Hallesy, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant education specialist explained, “As a result of this workshop, students will develop awareness and understanding about these critical environmental watershed issues based on the teachers’ new understandings. Educators will bring this increased confidence to their students to help excite them about engaging in Great Lakes stewardship.”
Added Rafael Rosa, Vice President of Education at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, “What I was most impressed with was the enthusiasm of the teachers the program attracted. They asked great questions and more importantly were very open to sharing ideas and working with one another. I think I learned as much from them as they did from me.”
Funding was provided through a grant from the NOAA B-WET education program (linked above), and the workshop was made possible with assistance from Indiana Dunes State Park, the Great Lakes Research and Education Center at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Swimmers, boaters, and anglers visiting Indiana’s coastline this summer will again be able to learn about conditions in Southern Lake Michigan thanks to real-time data collected by the Michigan City buoy. The buoy, launched for the first time last fall, returned to its post four miles from shore last week to collect data on wave height and direction, wind speed, and air and surface water temperatures. It will stay in the water until November.
The relaunch comes just in time to help make summer trips to Michigan City and the Indiana dunes safer. Throughout the season, scientists at the National Weather Service (NWS) in northern Indiana will use wave height and frequency data collected by the buoy to better anticipate likely locations of strong waves and rip currents that cause dangerous swimming conditions. The only one of its kind in the Indiana waters of the lake, the Michigan City buoy gives forecasters access to historically unavailable nearshore data where conditions are much different than at the center of the lake. Real-time data from the buoy has already helped NWS improve their wave height forecasts.
“This information is vital for NWS forecasters to access and accurately forecast the potential for dangerous swimming and boating conditions along southern Lake Michigan,” said John Taylor, a meteorologist with the NWS office in northern Indiana. “Our hope is that by accurately forecasting when high waves and rip currents along the shoreline will result in dangerous swimming conditions, we can reduce the number of tragic drownings that occur in these waters every summer.”
The site lets visitors see real-time snapshots of lake conditions—updated every 10 minutes—as well as trends over 24-hour and 5-day periods.
And this year, the Michigan City buoy joins the ranks of environmental monitors that contribute to NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center. The addition makes it possible for people to easily access data older than five days and track trends over longer periods of time. This archived data is particularly important for researchers and natural resource managers who rely on the buoy’s data to improve weather forecasts, protect water quality, and predict where best to fish.
The buoy launch also coincides with Rip Current Awareness Week, and is just one piece of a larger effort to protect people from the dangers of rip currents. Visit the Rip Current Awareness Week website to learn more about rip currents and what you can do to protect yourself this summer.
Educators from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin attended IISG’s workshop Nov. 9-10 to increase the presence of Great Lakes science in their classrooms and to improve student awareness of issues related to the Lakes.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant partnered with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and the National Park Service Great Lakes Research and Education Center and the Dunes Learning Center to host the workshops, which provided opportunities for teachers to engage in science and math data collection and hands-on field work. Educators previewed Sea Grant’s Greatest of the Great Lakes and Fresh and Salt curricula to familiarize themselves with the diverse range of learning formats to enhance their science, math, and engineering units, as well as activities from Great Lakes in My World by the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Also, as part of the new Center for Great Lakes Literacy, workshop attendees learned how to help protect and restore coastal areas in the Lake Michigan watershed through a variety of teaching methods.
All of the teachers who attended this year’s workshop were excited to learn about programs like the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach, as well as the many exciting student stewardship activities offered by the Shedd Aquarium, the Dunes Learning Center, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore botanists. They also enjoyed the hands-on activities, including using the Enviroscape model to learn about point source/non-point source pollution, and learning how to use GLNPO’s Hydrolab water quality monitoring instrument.
The feedback and comments from teachers was especially positive. Said one attendee, “You’ve given me great ideas about water quality, drinking water, invasive and noninvasive species, habitat restoration, and stewardship projects I can provide for my kids to become ‘Great Lakes literate.’”
To learn more about IISG’s educational programs and resources, visit our education webpage, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more events, workshops, and information.
This Center for Great Lakes Literacy project was funded through a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.