Isle Royale in the Classroom

Just as a pack of wolves working together can take down a moose, something no single wolf could ever do, it took many organizations working together to bring the story of the wolves and moose of Isle Royale to nearly 6,000 students (kindergarten through college), community members, and teachers throughout the region. Fifty years of research on the wolves and moose of Isle Royale were celebrated in November with a week of workshops, presentations, films, displays, and school events organized by the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Minnesota Sea Grant and COSEE Great Lakes were among the "pack" of academic and community groups that helped with funding, grant-writing, exhibits, and workshops.

Over 2,000 elementary students got a "trip" to Isle Royale as a result of this event, but far more children will have their understanding of the Isle Royale ecosystem increased over the next several years because 24 teachers from the area attended a day-long workshop sponsored by Minnesota Sea Grant through its leadership role in the Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) Great Lakes. The workshop gave teachers a deeper understanding of wolf-moose and predator-prey relationships; curriculum materials for their classrooms; and a chance to learn directly from the scientists doing the research. As one teacher said, "I am now able to give my students real examples of amazing research being done in our own back yard." Another teacher reported that she has already used the wolf/moose population cycles they learned about to teach about a variety of topics.

One of the richest aspects of the whole day was the stories shared by the Isle Royale researchers and staff. Tales of life and death of wolves and moose, discoveries about their behavior and interactions, stories of how seemingly small observations could dramatically change the direction of research these mesmerized the teachers and, along with access to photos, curriculum, and Web resources, left them with a wealth of material to use in their classrooms. As one teacher said, "The best part of the workshop was the stories they told and the chance to talk directly with the scientists." Fourth through tenth-grade teachers throughout the region who want to see Isle Royale for themselves may apply for a teacher workshop aboard the R/V Peter Wise Lake Guardian this summer. From July 7-13, the USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office will host COSEE Great Lakes for a Shipboard and Shoreline Science experience on Lake Superior. See information at http://coseegreatlakes.net/events/.