Attack Packs: Making Invaders Real
Ask just about any teacher, and he or she will tell you hands-on, experiential learning tops lectures and reading assignments any day of the week. That’s a big part of the reason Sea Grant has Attack Packs available for Wisconsin educators to borrow and use with their science-minded students.
What’s an Attack Pack, you ask? It’s an attractively designed backpack, packed to the zipper with information on aquatic invasive species (AIS), from the threats they pose to our Great Lakes environments and strategies to stop their spread. Each pack includes examples of famous invaders like zebra mussels and rusty crayfish, preserved and encased in easy-to-handle acrylic blocks. There are handy fact sheets and a USB flash drive filled with lesson plans developed by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network. Of course, the most visceral and popular piece of the pack: An actual sea lamprey, preserved to ensure its disturbing, slimy effect.
Erin Hunter, a science teacher at East High School in Madison, borrowed an Attack Pack last fall for the limnology/oceanography course she teaches to 10th through 12th graders. She found the pack’s contents especially useful for her unit on invasive species in the Great Lakes.
“I liked that the pack was easy to use, and that I could show off examples of various species to the kids,” said Hunter, who also adapted her curriculum to include invaders that trouble lakes in her home county. “They liked it because some of the organisms were bigger or ‘grosser’ than they had thought, and it made them real for the students in a way that showing them pictures on the Internet wouldn’t have.”
It’s that “making it real” part that gets to the core of what the Attack Packs are all about. Preventing the spread of AIS costs millions of dollars each year. The potential water-quality and food-web devastation AIS can wreak in our lakes if left uncontrolled could be even greater. That’s why educating the public—and the next generation of lake and river users—is so important.
“Combatting invasive species is one of the top priorities of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which provided funding for the Attack Packs,” said Kathy Kline, Sea Grant education outreach specialist. “By making the packs available for free checkout, we hope to educate as many students as possible about the importance of stopping the spread of invasive species.”
Kline, Wisconsin Water Librarian Anne Moser and AIS Outreach Specialist Tim Campbell frequently use the Attack Pack in presentations and public talks to student groups. Wisconsin residents can borrow an Attack Pack for free from Wisconsin’s Water Library. Visit seagrant.wisc.edu/attackpack.
Spring Valley High School Springs at Chance to Savor Science
Captures State Championship in Marine Sciences at Lake Sturgeon Bowl
In February, a team of five high school students from Spring Valley in Pierce County, Wisconsin, emerged victorious in the 2014 Lake Sturgeon Bowl. The bowl is the state qualifying round for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB). It was the second year in a row they captured the top spot, once again wresting the crown from the traditionally strong Marshfield High School, which had won every other competition going all the way back to 2001.
“Our kids work hard to prepare every year. For a long time, we were intimidated by Marshfield’s mystique,” said Coach Michele Huppert, a National Board Certified Science Teacher for both middle and high schoolers. “The past two years, we’ve been more relaxed when we play, just working hard to prepare, doing our best, and seeing how it turns out.”
Turns out, the team heads to the national competition in Seattle where Wisconsin enjoys a stellar legacy, having won four times. Despite the team’s elimination in the third round of the bowl, Huppert noted, “It is difficult to overstate the benefits of the NOSB to all my students. From college-readiness and scientific field experience to big-picture thinking and inspiration to pursue STEM and water-science careers, NOSB has an enormous positive impact.”
Wisconsin Sea Grant is a longtime supporter of the Lake Sturgeon Bowl, providing volunteers, team and coach training, research materials and funding.