Ohio teachers who want to get their students excited about Lake Erie science can find guidance from Ohio Sea Grant’s Stone Lab Virtual Field Trips.
Available for free, Virtual Field Trip teaching modules include everything middle and high school teachers need for a successful lesson, from student worksheets to digital materials like videos and slide shows. The fully immersive experiences help teachers improve content and pedagogical knowledge and build their confidence in the topics. Teachers who complete the module will receive a certificate for five professional development contact hours.
“We want to familiarize teachers with Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab and what we can provide for them,” said Angela Greene, Ohio Sea Grant education specialist. “We take content a teacher might not be familiar with and break that down so they can share it in the form of a good lesson in a good learning cycle with their learners. And we connect our scientists in the field with classrooms and students.”
The program began in 2020 when the pandemic shut down operations nationwide. Stone Lab scientists recorded video on Gibraltar Island, where Stone Lab is located, to educate virtual visitors on fish and invertebrate sampling and identification in Lake Erie. Then, Ohio Sea Grant educators wrote unique, intricate lesson plans to make use of the videos and similarly implemented more modules. Each module includes a virtual Chat with a Biologist session that teachers can offer their students to meet working Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab scientists.
Three Virtual Field Trips are now available:
- Fish Identification (grades 4 through 8) introduces students to information about Lake Erie fishes and how to identify them. It includes video from a Stone Lab fish trawl along with teacher materials like a fish identification key, student worksheets and classroom presentations.
- Benthic Macroinvertebrates (grades 6 through 12) focuses on collecting common benthic macroinvertebrates, small aquatic animals or larval forms of insects, and using them to determine the health of aquatic ecosystems. The module includes video showing collection techniques in a stream, along with teacher materials and worksheets that allow students to diagnose the health of a freshwater ecosystem.
- New this year is Limnology (grades 6 through 12), the study of the biological, chemical and physical characteristics of lakes and other bodies of freshwater. The virtual field trip includes video of Stone Lab limnologists measuring water characteristics and collecting plankton in Lake Erie, a jigsaw strategy for increased student engagement and many additional resources.
Greene said Ohio Sea Grant educators plan to develop a field trip related to herpetology, study of reptiles and amphibians such as snakes and frogs.
“We use the courses to walk a teacher through this material so at the end of it they’re ready to teach that lesson to their students,”
The Virtual Field Trips align with in-person Stone Lab Science Field Trips as well as Next Generation Science Standards; Ohio’s Learning Standards for Science and the Model Science Curriculum; and the Great Lakes Literacy Principles. The modules introduce teachers to the 5E learning model: engage students, explore the new context, explain what was learned, extend or elaborate by applying the learning; and evaluate or assess the learning.
“We use the courses to walk a teacher through this material so at the end of it they’re ready to teach that lesson to their students,” Greene said. “We’re excited for people to join us on this journey.”