Students cruise into scienceSuperior Middle School students were immersed in science Tuesday, as they tested Lake Superior water from the deck of the Vista Star. Wednesday, the sixth graders were brimming with questions about the largest freshwater lake in the world.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Superior Middle School students were immersed in science Tuesday, as they tested Lake Superior water from the deck of the Vista Star. Wednesday, the sixth graders were brimming with questions about the largest freshwater lake in the world.
“I want to figure out why it’s clear in some spots of Lake Superior and some spots are murky,” said Kaitlin Langley.
“I wonder how fish see through murky water,” said Nathan Young.
Morgan Anderson and Luke Fornengo questioned if the water pressure in the deeper parts of the lake affect the fish that live there.
Many questions cropped up about the shipping industry and its affect on the lake water.
“How much gas and oil do boats leave?” Hailey Johnson asked, and does it affect the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.
Max Curtis pointed out that the June flood was the big event of the summer. He wondered if the clay and other material that was flushed into the lake from the flooding affected the turbidity (haziness or cloudiness) of the water. Tyler Johnson wondered if the depth and length of each of the Great Lakes affects the amount of dissolved oxygen in their waters.
“Every one of you has questions worth asking,” said their teacher, Stephanie Francis.
Some are the same questions that researchers are working to answer today, said Deanna Erickson, education coordinator for the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve.
“Good for you,” she told the students Wednesday. “Way to take it home.”
The sixth graders plan to search for answers to their questions this school year by analyzing the data they collected, connecting with classes on three of the other Great Lakes and taking weekly trips into nature.
This authentic, place-based learning can tweak interest in and encourage stewardship of the area’s unique ecosystem, Francis said.
“We grow up in this place and we take it for granted,” said the science teacher. “There is so much to be learned.”
It has already changed some perceptions.
Caden Willie said he would probably be out fishing Saturday. But he’ll keep in mind what he learned on the cruise.
“It changes the way I think about water now,” the sixth grader said.
One of the partners in the learning process is the NERR. Erickson took the voyage of discovery with the students Tuesday. It included a station on the local food web, a station on mapping and the difference between an estuary and a lake and hands-on water quality testing with a Secchi disc and Hydrolab electronic water quality meter.
“It was really neat to see how excited the kids actually got,” Erickson said. “I’m really excited to see that they’re excited.”
Two workshops led to the outing. Francis was one of 15 teachers to take part in an EPA-sponsored cruise on Lake Huron this summer. They learned to use the HydroLab and the importance of monitoring the Great Lakes. Each was challenged to bring what they learned back to the classroom. Francis and three other teachers, each living on a different Great Lake, plan to test lake water quality and share the data they get. Because she attended the workshop, Francis is able to check out the HydroLab, which Fornengo said is a $10,000 piece of equipment, for class use.
Francis also attended the NERR’s Rivers2Lake Program with a number of local teachers. As a result of that program, NERR provided funding for the cruise, and staff will connect with Francis twice a month. It’s a nice link, the teacher said.
Erickson “doesn’t just know me, she knows my students,” Francis said.
In return, the class takes weekly trips out into the wetlands surrounding the school to study the environment. Last week, they not only explored, they picked up a bag full of garbage and a broken bicycle.
“We’re becoming wildlife warriors,” Francis said