New York and Pennsylvania host joint COSEE Educators House Call

August 30, 2007

Like physicians of earlier times, when educators make a house call to a science facility, they are coming to offer their expertise and training to the occupants of the house. In a COSEE Educator House Call, scientists share their research in return for information provided by the education professionals. Researchers want to know how to best 'package' their research data and findings so educators can share it with their students.

New York and Pennsylvania Sea Grant staff recently co-hosted a COSEE Educators House Call. New York Sea Grant Specialist Helen Domske and five formal and non-formal educators from the Western New York Area started their day at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Dunkirk Fisheries Station where they interacted with Fisheries Leader Bill Culligan. The station overlooks Lake Erie, where the NYSDEC research and monitoring is conducted. The educators learned about native and invasive fish species and the fisheries operations of NYSDEC. Touching the mouth of a sea lamprey and learning how to age fish using otoliths and scales were some of the highlights of the morning. Educators shared their concerns and educational needs with Bill Culligan, who was interested in learning how NYSDEC might be able to assist teachers.

From Dunkirk they drove to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) in Erie, PA to join Pennsylvania Sea Grant Coastal Outreach Specialist Marti Martz, three Erie area educators and three scientists. Dr. Ed Masteller, Ph.D. candidate Jeanette Schnars, and Scott White, Environmental Supervisor from the Erie County (PA) Department of Health updated workshop participants on projects they are currently working on. Topics included: E.coli as an indicator of water quality; uptake of contaminants by common snapping turtles; and Mayflies as an indicator of environmental health. Educators and scientists discussed how to best incorporate current science data into their teaching and then wrapped up the day with a sail on the Friendship Sloop Momentum, a 42-foot vessel used to teach the Environmental Rediscoveries program on Presque Isle Bay in Erie.

Participating educators thought that science is best learned by experiential methods, hands-on activities are the ones that get students excited about science. Researchers suggested that students visit science facilities such as TREC and the Aquarium of Niagara, and that educators incorporate real-time data and preserved specimens into their teaching to spark that interest in science.

For more information on COSEE Great Lakes visit coseegreatlakes.net. More information on Environmental Rediscoveries can be found at http://seagrant.psu.edu/education/programs.htm.