Landlocked but Water Wise
Two Wisconsin teachers have made exceptional use of the educational resources that Sea Grant has to offer.
The teachers are Lynn Kurth and Cindy Byers. Kurth works as a science teacher for Prairie River Middle School in Merrill, Wis. Just a 50-minute drive away, Byers works as a science and reading teacher for Rosholt Middle School in Rosholt, Wis.
They met in 2011 during a week-long voyage on the Lake Guardian, a research vessel owned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They were participating in a Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop, a program conducted by the Great Lakes Sea Grant programs through the former Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (which has become the Center for Great Lakes Literacy). Kurth and Byers bonded over a Hydrolab—a large, tubular piece of water testing equipment—and they saw the opportunity to partner in the future.
“We supported each other’s teaching and enriched each other’s classrooms by having this collaboration,” Byers said. “We had the kids Skype with each other a couple of times and present the Hydrolab data they collected. Even though our schools are not that far apart, it seemed quite exotic to the kids and they were excited to use a piece of equipment that scientists use. A lot of the reasons we’ve been able to do so much with the program is that we’ve been supporting each other all along.”
After sharing among themselves, the two got the idea to share their methods with other teachers. They’ve conducted several teacher workshops with the Hydrolab in cooperation with Wisconsin Sea Grant and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant on the Denis Sullivan schooner out of Milwaukee. They’ve also shared their techniques at a National Marine Educators Association conference in Alabama in cooperation with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and they gave a presentation at a Wisconsin science teachers workshop last fall. Minnesota Sea Grant provided the duo with funding to go to an International Association for Great Lakes Research conference at Purdue University as well.
“There’s so much synergy between us,” said Kurth of her and Byers. “One thing has led to the next. Every time we’re introduced to something new with Sea Grant, it opens another door.”
The two worked with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant for a year to develop a teacher instruction manual that supplements the technical manual that comes with the Hydrolab. It contains step-by-step instructions and lesson plans.
In the future, the teachers hope to share information at other national science teacher conferences and to work with Wisconsin Sea Grant on using remotely operated underwater vehicles.
“The engineering principles would complement the work my kids are doing with the Hydrolab,” Kurth said.