Education Aquanauts Educator Enhancement Collaboration - 09.01.2008

Great Lakes at sunset
COSEE seeks to promote partnerships between research scientists and educators, disseminate best practices in ocean sciences education, and promote ocean education as a charismatic, interdisciplinary vehicle for creating a more scientifically literate workforce and citizenry. One way to increase public awareness of the oceans and their importance in economic and environmental considerations is through educator enhancement and public outreach activities based on scientific inquiry.

Drs. Russell Cuhel and Carmen Aguilar, scientists at the Great Lakes Wisconsin Aquatic Technology and Environmental Research (WATER) Institute in Milwaukee, have been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation COSEE Collaborative grant to work with COSEE Great Lakes. Their 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.

COSEE Great Lakes is uniquely situated to take advantage of mounting global concern over freshwater resources. The Great Lakes may demonstrate faster response times to global climate change, as already evidenced by a longer ice-free season on the lower lakes. The Great Lakes have also been susceptible to an onslaught of invasive species appearances, predominantly through the shipping lanes of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Research activities on Lake Michigan ecosystem dynamics by the PIs at the Great Lakes WATER Institute can provide an ideal opportunity for research education collaboration supporting the mission of COSEE, especially COSEE Great Lakes.

Great Lakes satellite image
During the last decade, more than half a dozen animal species have invaded the upper Great Lakes, some of them causing unequivocal and perhaps cataclysmic alterations in large lake ecosystems. Lake Michigan in particular provides readily accessible opportunities for sampling and understanding of invasive species ecology. These issues are widespread in marine environments as well, and comparative learning can be stimulating. COSEE Great Lakes provides the perfect venue for development and dissemination of exciting hands-on, interactive aquatic science experiential learning opportunities. This program seeks to provide exciting, immersion science learning and resource exposure for teachers of middle and high school students and informal science educators. Specific objectives are: (1) expand educator awareness of exotic species occurrence and activities in local waters as a means for introducing larger topics of aquatic ecosystem processes; (2) engage educators in 1-week, intense hands-on workshops using modern-day tools both onboard a research vessel and analytical instrumentation at the laboratory bench to test specific, tractable hypotheses; and (3) assist the COSEE Great Lakes in providing educators with resources to access current environmental research activities and results in their own region and nationally.

Participating science teachers serving primarily middle and high school audiences, and informal science educators will be recruited through collaboration with COSEE Great Lakes, drawing in part upon our own substantial existing base of participants in JASON and other outreach programs.

Source: NSF Award Abstract #0828074

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