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Teachers Learning About Great Lakes

OSWEGO, NY – A teacher from Fulton is among a crew of 15 educators taking a voyage aboard a 180-foot floating classroom this week.

New York Sea Grant is hosting 15 teachers and non-formal environmental educators for a week-long, hands-on learning cruise aboard the federal research vessel the Lake Guardian.

Colleen Warner of Fulton shares her background and what she hopes to get out of the experience with the other teachers and crew during introductions aboard the Lake Guardian.
Colleen Warner of Fulton shares her background and what she hopes to get out of the experience with the other teachers and crew during introductions aboard the Lake Guardian.

The teachers are working alongside the federal researchers that regularly monitor the Great Lakes from aboard the Environmental Protection Agency ship that is the only self-contained, nonpolluting vessel on the Great Lakes.

They participate in field exercises, help scientists collecting data and explore classroom activities relating to the Great Lakes and ocean resources.

Educators – from New York and four other states – are journaling and developing classroom projects to take back to their schools.

This fall, they will take what they have learned back to their classrooms to share with students.

Colleen Warner teaches at Fulton’s Fairgrieve Elementary.

She said she received an email regarding this opportunity.

“It looked interesting, so I applied for it. And, here I am!” she told Oswego County Today.

PONAR takes a small scooper and drops it to the bottom of the lake to take samples.

 Teachers check mud samples from Lake Ontario. They extracted these samples from more than 16 stations in the last few days alone. Photo provided by: Paul C. Focazio, Web Content Manager, Office of Communications, New York Sea Grant.

Teachers check mud samples from Lake Ontario. They extracted these samples from more than 16 stations in the last few days alone. Photo provided by: Paul C. Focazio, Web Content Manager, Office of Communications, New York Sea Grant.

“They dig all that stuff up and place it into a tub. We have to rinse it eight times and squish up the mud and stuff to filter out the tiny worms and micro-organisms,” she said. “We were out there and it was starting to rain and hail … the waves were crashing. Nobody even blinked an eye. We just kept working. It was like, ‘this is what scientists do.’”

“You teach kids stuff like ‘20 percent of the lake is this or that.’ But, where does that data come from? Now, I know,” she added.

At first, it’s a novelty and it’s fun, she said.

“But when you have got to get up at 4 in the morning and do it, after a while it becomes, you know, a bit tedious. They (the researchers) do this all the time; this is their life,” she said. “I wouldn’t change this opportunity for anything. It’s a great learning experience. I can’t wait to get back and share it with my students.”

NYSG Coastal  Education Specialist Helen Domske and Dr. Greg Boyer, Great Lakes  Research Consortium Director and SUNY ESF Chemistry Department Chair, were part of the Guardian’s crew.

“Helen runs the educational aspects and I run the scientifict aspect,” Dr. Boyer explained. “This isn’t data that’s just going to sit in a folder somewhere.  We’re actually collecting samples that are actually going to be used. It’s part of a five-year rotation. Last year we did Huron; this year we’re doing Ontario.”

The research data shows variations from year to year. It is being collected in each lake on a five-year cycle to make the charts a bit easier to read and the changes show up better, he noted.

“That’s why it’s really important to come back and do these things over again,” he said.

NYSG Web Content Manager Paul Focazio will be blogging from aboard the ship and sharing photos and news via the blog that will be posted at http://www.nyseagrant.org

Click on the News & Updates for Shipboard Science Tour to link to Focazio’s Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Lake Ontario blog.

The Guardian will likely not be back on Lake Ontario for another five years.