Northern Michigan Teacher Training Impacts Greater Great Lakes Region

The NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program recently released a video featuring Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) and Clay High School. Meredith Wolfe, Clay High School Agricultural Education teacher, participated in a 2019 Great Lakes Watershed Field Course (GLWFC) offered by ISEA through a NOAA B-WET grant. The grant also provided Ms. Wolfe with a scholarship to bring her students to northern Michigan for a Fall Schoolship experience where her students were inspired to take action in their local watershed in Ohio.

The video highlights the students’ experience on the Schoolship program and how they took the skills they gained on Lake Michigan and applied them to their local watershed near Lake Erie. Throughout the school year Ms. Wolfe’s students worked on stewardship projects in their local wetland and presented them at the 2019 Student Watershed Watch Summit. Students in the video reflect on their Schoolship experience stating that they understood the concepts and used those skills in their projects, saw how water impacts the community up through the global level, and applied what they learned in a local sense.

“The purpose of the hands-on nature of the course is so teachers learn how to implement stewardship education in a compelling way,” shared Fred Sitkins, Executive Director for ISEA. “We want them to see what’s possible for their students to do in their communities.” The NOAA B-Wet funded Great Lakes Watershed Field Course was a 4-day professional development experience for educators in the Great Lakes region. The course included watershed and environmental concepts, place-based education and environmental education pedagogy, and had time for curriculum development. Participants gained this knowledge by visiting projects in the Grand Traverse region that improve watershed health and through information shared by ISEA, NOAA and Earth Force. Teachers who participated in the GLWFC oversaw student watershed-based stewardship projects like the one shown in the video. ISEA also supported teachers throughout the school year with additional training, online forums, and other forms of assistance.

“This is probably one of the highlights of my career,” Ms. Wolfe expressed in the video. “We got to experience this together and the kids are going to remember this their entire life.” The training Ms. Wolfe received in the GLWFC can be used to engage students in watershed projects every year, exponentially increasing the scientists and citizens who will care for the Great Lakes.

Inland Seas Education Association has provided teacher professional development since 2002 when the first Invasive Species Field program was offered. The GLWFC was offered in 2017 and 2019 through NOAA grants. ISEA will be offering a Great Lakes Watershed Field Course to educators in 2021 thanks to a grant from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.

Note: The Great Lakes Watershed Field Course and NOAA filming and interviews took place in 2019, prior to social distancing guidelines related to COVID-19.