For many, Stone Lab, Ohio State’s island campus on Lake Erie, is more than just a place to take some summer classes that doesn’t involve sitting in a lecture hall. It’s a way of life that gets in your bones and stays with you from the first time you step off a boat onto the Gibraltar Island docks.
Stone Lab experiences often start with a field trip for kids as young as fifth grade. The Lake Erie Science Field Trip Program takes students out onto the lake for a fish trawl and water sampling session before bringing them back to the lab to dissect their catch and analyze their water samples under microscopes. Additional activities include everything from a plant walk around the island to meeting some of Stone Lab’s reptilian residents.
For many of the students, it’s the first time they get to experience science beyond reading about it in a book.
“Most of them hadn’t had the experience of dissecting a live, fresh fish,” said Brian Niemeyer, who teaches fifth grade at Lincolnview Local Elementary School in Van Wert, Ohio.
“At that grade level, it’s a great first experience for them.” Niemeyer has regularly brought his classes to Stone Lab since 2013 to help them feel more connected to what they were learning in the classroom.
High school students enjoy those experiences as well. Frances O’Flaherty, adviser to the Utica High School science club in Utica, Ohio regularly brought her students to the island starting in 2010, and the students looked forward to the trip so much that they held fundraisers throughout the year to make sure everyone could afford to have that Stone Lab experience.
“I’ve had kids come back and say ‘That was my favorite thing ever from high school,’” O’Flaherty said. This year, her students were especially interested in the tour of the Aquatic Visitors Center (AVC), a former Ohio Department of Natural Resources fish hatchery on South Bass Island that now functions as a visitors and nature center managed by Stone Lab.
While field trips are only held during the school year, half-day AVC Adventures allow students to explore the Lake Erie ecosystem over the summer as well.
Collecting macroinvertebrates during the water quality walk and holding snakes in the reptiles and amphibians class are among the most popular activities, said Kelsey Dick, a former AVC supervisor. “The kids love herpetology. They love sending pictures home to their parents of them holding snakes.”
Although Stone Lab has only offered AVC Adventures since 2014, staff members have already seen how successful they can be at encouraging an interest in science, especially for younger students. More information about field trips and AVC Adventures is available at go.osu.edu/SLfieldtrips.
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