Ocean Education for the North Coast

Let’s do some brainstorming: When you think about the ocean, what comes to mind? Here’s a quick list that was assembled by COSEE SouthEast and COSEE Great Lakes as we prepared for NSTA in March:

ReefsTidesOcean Observing SystemsSCUBA/snorkeling
ShellsCurrentsStorm surgesIce fishing
Invasive speciesDissolved solidsSandy beachesCommercial fishing
SharksSand dunesCan't see acrossInternational shipping
ShrimpDead zonesShipwrecksDense population

All of these apply in some way to the Great Lakes as well as the salty oceans of the world. True, our tides are on the order of millimeters and our sharks are fossilized ones that demonstrate that the area was under a sea in the past. But “those grand freshwater seas of ours,” as Melville described them, are the site of some excellent ocean sciences education through COSEE Great Lakes!

Great Lakes Coastlines 
Over our three years of shared NSF/NOAA funding we have (among other efforts) conducted research on collaboration between scientists and educators, and tested models for professional development workshops for educators and scientists. We are proud to share our work with colleagues in the COSEE Network and beyond.

Research Base for Developing Collaboration

COSEE Great Lakes had the advantage in its early days of being the subject of dissertation research by Dr. Chankook Kim, now of Seoul National University. His research among scientists and educators [Kim & Fortner 2007, 2008] indicates there are few examples of real collaboration among members of these groups. Scientists are far more likely to serve as a resource for a teacher than to serve as a partner, and vice versa. The way scientists and educators are prepared for their professions may be responsible for such professional distance. Most scientists in the study had little chance to obtain knowledge in professional education during their professional science training. One indication of scientists’ lack of knowledge in education was their unfamiliarity with the vocabulary of education. Along the same lines, educators in the study did not feel they had sufficient science for effective communication with researchers. They also reported that such cultural barriers as different perspectives on education, understanding of the profession of scientists, and difficulty in communication can be important challenges to their seeking collaboration.

 Dr. Chankook Kim with advisor Dr. Rosanne Fortner
With this information we have been conducting land-based and shipboard workshops to bring scientists and educators into working situations designed to foster professional respect for each other as well as having the groups learn from each other. In advance of a scientist’s visit, we give our participating educators a copy of an article written by the scientist, and the scientist gets an article about some education research. The scientist is invited for a full day, preferably longer, so that there is time for informal interaction over meals and in routine workshop activities such as concept mapping and journaling. Every attempt is made to have a topical discussion based on the advance papers before any presentation is made. Frequently this changes the character of the presentation, because the researcher is aware of teacher understanding and needs. We consider that the time spent informally with the participants is inservice education for the scientist!

In our shipboard workshops, scientists live with the educators aboard the R/V Lake Guardian for a full week of study. Our wonderful partnership with the Great Lakes National Program Office of the EPA makes such an opportunity possible, literally studying one lake “in depth” each year! Sharing quarters, learning together, observing the working styles of 15 educators and 4 or 5 scientists for a week, all provide means for breaking down cultural barriers and building the bases for collaboration.

To assess whether the science is actually being assimilated, educators develop concept maps of their understanding of the lake/ocean science before, during and after the workshop. Post-workshop evaluation is conducted among both scientists and educators, and those data are building a picture of how our research-based workshops meet their goals for science content and collaboration. As Evaluator Howard Walters reports:

“…based on the individual number of concepts included on the group created maps, there was a significant increase in the scope of science content knowledge associated with the Great Lakes by classroom teachers at the two, Lake Exploration workshops and the one, Lake Guardian workshop from which map data were compiled for the analyses. Second, using the overall width and depth of the maps based on the concepts and the number and structure of their linkages as proxies for hierarchical structural complexity, there was a statistically significant improvement in the complexity of understanding of Great Lakes science content by these classroom teachers across these three workshops. This finding supports a conclusion that the COSEE GL team is effectively reaching one of its important program objectives. Finally, these programs were facilitated by science educators using research scientists as the primary instructors who conveyed the new science content knowledge to these teachers. Consequently, these statistical analyses support a finding that these scientists were effectively meeting their “broader impact” objectives and concerns, and were effective in bridging the gap between their research findings and the cognitive needs of these classroom teachers.”

New Collaboration Project

Dr. Russell Cuhel demonstrates sampling equipment aboard the R/V Neeskay 
COSEE Great Lakes now proudly includes the work of the Education Aquanauts program of Drs. Russell Cuhel and Carmen Aguilar, who involve teachers directly in their research science on Lake Michigan through the Great Lakes WATER Institute. The project’s educator enhancement program is designed to provide exciting, immersion science learning and resource exposure for teachers of middle and high school students and informal science educators. It focuses on invasive animal species and ecosystem dynamics in the Lakes. There will be workshops over three years that introduce local Lake Michigan ecosystem components, mapping and navigation, and sampling. Studies aboard the RV Neeskay will allow participants to sample a nearby reef ecosystem using traditional and remotely operated vehicle technologies. Lab analysis, data interpretation, and hypothesis-building will be followed by sampling a reef composed of a shipwreck, as a hypothetical contrast to the natural reef. The first workshop will be scheduled for August. In the meantime, Dr. Aguilar is planning to revisit some of the excellent questions that followed her Great Lakes ALIVE presentation in February, and will post additional science information for the participants in that online workshop.

Bits and Pieces

 Lower Lakes Linked by videoconference
In Summer 2008 two COSEE Great Lakes workshops had overlapping dates, so we established a videoconference connection between them. Videoconferencing is not usually a newsworthy event, but this one linked an island laboratory on Lake Erie to a ship on Lake Ontario! Teachers in a Realtime Data workshop developed by COSEE-Coastal Trends with COSEE Great Lakes was working from Gibraltar Island at F. T. Stone Laboratory, and the R/V Lake Guardian was hosting a COSEE crew aboard ship. Both groups were sampling similar data and had an opportunity to share experiences through the conference!

Live from Lake Michigan. When our COSEE Collaborative partners were not able to come to the annual Advisory Committee meeting in Cleveland, they contacted the group at the Great Lakes Science Center from the R/V Neeskay on Lake Michigan. Advisory and staff were able to interact with hypothesis development and protocol establishment about relative numbers of zebra and quagga mussels, then watch the data collection happening on the cold and stormy lake. All enjoyed the virtual research cruise!

Isle Royale Workshop. Isle Royale in Lake Superior has a unique environment that has been famous for its wolf/moose interaction over the decades. Many organizations, including COSEE and Minnesota Sea Grant personnel, worked together in November to bring the story of the wolves and moose on Isle Royale to nearly 6,000 students (kindergarten through college), community members, and teachers throughout the region. Workshops, presentations, films, displays, and school events throughout a whole week were organized by the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The professional development component gave teachers a deeper understanding of wolf/moose and predator/prey relationships; curriculum materials for their classrooms; and a chance to learn directly from the scientists doing the research.

Lake Ontario Shipboard and Shoreline Workshop log
Great Lakes ALIVE! Our third online workshop through the College of Exploration was based on the biology of the lakes. Five researchers presented seminars on their work, and nearly 200 participants interacted in discussions. Resources were posted for download or as active links to instructional materials. Material from all of our workshops is available online:

New PI for COSEE Great Lakes. Dr. Don Scavia, our COSEE Great Lakes Principal Investigator since 2005, has been named the new director of the University of Michigan’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and will become its Graham Family Professor this year. Because of the demands of his new position, he has stepped out of his position as Michigan Sea Grant Director and COSEE PI, and Dr. Jim Diana, named to lead the Sea Grant program has agreed to be our PI for our remaining COSEE years. Dr. Diana, a respected University of Michigan fisheries biologist, will be a key factor in the future of the program.

Contributed by Rosanne Fortner