Making the COSEE GL Connection

By Helen Domske

As COSEE GL enters its 5th year of programming, each of the lake leaders can list off many outstanding teachers who have participated in programs, workshops or Lake Guardian cruises. The learning community that COSEE GL has fostered and developed is noteworthy and impressive, but in every group there are always a few educators who go above and beyond the rest. One of those New York educators is Kenneth Huff. A participant in the Lake Ontario Shipboard and Shoreline workshop in 2008, Ken has successfully made the connection between what he learned aboard the vessel to what he teaches in his classroom.

Ken Huff received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from President George W. Bush in 2006. A sixth-grade science teacher at Mill Middle School in Williamsville, Huff was the only science teacher in New York State so recognized, and one of 93 recognized nationally. Huff has received numerous awards and has served as chair of the National Science Teachers Association Aerospace Program Advisory Board and as teacher liaison for the Space Foundation. He is also active in the Science Teachers Association of New York State and regularly shares his expertise with other educators in Western New York.

Ken Huff was an active participant on the Lake Guardian cruise and was pleased that he learned so much during the 65 hours of research and instruction from a cadre of scientists that he and the other educators were fortunate to interact with. Whether he was donning an orange “Gumby” survival suit or demonstrating a COSEE GL curriculum activity, he did so with great fervor and enthusiasm.

When he got back into his middle school science classroom he shared his knowledge and enthusiasm with his students. He used innovative ways to help his students understand water turbidity and other concepts. He had them use mini-Secchi disks made of painted metal washers that were dropped in various containers of water to simulate turbidity research. He taught them all about the Great Lakes using Great Lakes and Ocean principles he learned aboard the USEPA’s research vessel.

This school year he invited Helen Domske, the Lake Ontario leader for COSEE GL, to visit his classroom and share some information on invasive species with his motivated students. She was greeted by a rousing chorus of the Great Lakes Song, that Huff learned while on the cruise. His students impressed Domske with their knowledge of invasive species such as sea lamprey and zebra mussels as they handled preserved specimens of these and other creatures that have had such a negative environmental impact on the Great Lakes. The students understood the impact that invasive species have had on the ecosystem and realized that they could play a role in sharing information about reducing the spread of invaders with parents, friends and relatives who utilize the Great Lakes for fishing, boating or other forms of recreation.

As he introduced Domske to his students throughout the day, he continually praised the COSEE GL Lake Guardian experience as the highlight of his professional development experiences. Well, Mr. Huff, having dedicated teachers like you as part of our learning community is one of the highlights of COSEE Great Lakes! We thank you and all our educators for making the connection from COSEE GL to the classroom. Keep up the great job!