Graduate Teaching Fellows in STEM High School Education: An Environmental Science Learning Community at the Land-Lake Ecosystem Interface
Our GK-12 program ran from 2008-2015 and partnered advanced graduate students in STEM disciplines at the University of Toledo with high school teachers and their students to build an Environmental Science Leaning Community at the land-lake ecosystem interface. Partners included federal, state, and local environmental agencies. Our objectives were to: 1) Generate student enthusiasm for STEM careers by engaging them in hands-on research into environmental problems, 2) Exchange STEM knowledge and pedagogies between graduate students and high school teachers resulting in cutting-edge environmental science content and increased teaching and communication skills, and 3) Develop hands-on solutions to environmental problems along schoolyard stream ecosystems feeding the Great Lakes.
Each year we selected a new focus for the project. This focus became the theme of our summer training institute and we built upon it throughout the academic year by basing lessons and activities around it.
- In year one, our focus was water quality and macroinvertebrate identification. Our team became Ohio EPA Level One certified in data collection. This theme was a building block for our program and our participation in the Student Watershed Watch Program.
- In year two, our focus was on the geology of the land-lake interface we looked at the geologic events, including stream and river processes, which have resulted in our modern landscape. Contaminants and their potential sources and pathways were covered as well.
- In year three, our focus was to evaluate the environmental conditions and impacts of the thermal plume from the Edison Power Plant on the near shore ecosystem with collections of water quality parameters coupled with samples of the benthic community.
- In year four, our focus was on the evolutionary and ecological adaptation of aquatic communities. Our group worked to create classroom activities based on genetics topics covered in our summer institute.
- In year five, our focus was on integrating with our sensor network. We used data gathered from the sensors for classroom activities. To learn more about our sensor network, click here.
- In year six and seven, we continued working to get students out of their traditional classroom settings by doing hands on, inquiry based lessons, participating in the local Student Watershed Watch Program, and conducting independent research projects.