A big part of the Stone Lab experience, aside from doing science in a real-world island setting, is exploring knowledge and sharing ideas with like-minded individuals from all over the Great Lakes region. This can be especially important for working professionals like the educators that take classes at Stone Lab every summer, as this exchange of ideas helps them adapt learning to their specific education setting.
Cammie Jones, a fourth-grade teacher at DeWitt Public Schools north of Lansing, Michigan, participated in the 2013 Great Lakes Education class at Stone Lab, and really enjoyed the networking that comes with living with your classmates on a Lake Erie island. The course was taught by Dr. Rosanne Fortner, Ohio Sea Grant’s former Education Director, and Lyndsey Manzo, Ohio Sea Grant Educator and a science teacher at Westerville North High School.
The students included educators from elementary school to adult education at nature centers, and participants were able to expand their horizons by exchanging ideas with others who teach in areas not their own. “There were quite a diverse group of people in our class, and I think they all found ways to integrate those lessons into the settings where they were teaching,” Cammie says. “It gave me a great perspective on all the different avenues people are using to reach the public, and it helped me see some ideas from their point of view that I could use in my classroom.”
Her fourth-graders have also benefited from the data collection techniques Cammie learned about during the Stone Lab class. Each morning, the students would take simple environmental observations such as air temperature and wind direction in front of one of the lab buildings, both to get a feel for handling the scientific instruments required for measurements, and to contribute to a larger collection of environmental data at Stone Lab.
“Those elements were really helpful for me to integrate some new measurements into something that I do with my students each day called ‘first look,’” Cammie says. “Basically, each day we go out in the morning to a certain spot on our playground where we have been doing some of that data collection, but I‘ve extended that a bit and added some tools that I saw at the lab that I thought my kids could use.”
Cammie also presented some of the curriculum materials at the 2013 Great Lakes Place-Based Education Conference at Grand Valley State University, along with course instructor Lyndsey Manzo. Their presentation allowed other educators to discover some of the lessons, which are freely available online at greatlakesliteracy.net, and to run through a few of them the same way they would with their students.
“It was also a fun extension to show how I adapted the lessons for young students, since some of them are originally designed for more of a middle school and up audience,” Cammie says. “I found them to be very receptive to the ideas and the resources, and to seeing how you could use some of the presented strategies not just with the Great Lakes content, but with other things too.”