Lake Ontario Exploration Workshop A formula for Success

By Helen Domske

What do you get when you mix 15 educators with 19 scientists and allow that "concoction" to brew for a week? A successful learning experience for all involved! The Lake Ontario Exploration workshop took educators along the shores of Lake Ontario, from the Niagara River to Rochester, Oswego, all the way to the ecologically sensitive sand dunes that mark the eastern edge of this Great Lake. The group interacted with ecologists, biologists, a Tuscarora Nation environmental scientist, a modeler, an ichthyologist, the state Aquatic Invasive Species coordinator, geographers and even a marine historian, in locations such as university laboratories, field stations, an aquarium, a bathysphere biological lab, a fish hatchery, maritime museum and several field locations in the watershed.

Award-winning New York Sea Grant Coastal Education Specialist and COSEE GL Lake Ontario leader, Helen Domske, organized this workshop that had participants on the go from morning to night in order to learn as much as possible from the scientists and specialists who willingly shared their expertise with these dedicated educators.

According to Judy Gluchowski, "It was a wonderful week. I'm responsible for planning and delivering staff development in my district, so I have a real appreciation for how much work it must have taken to plan and lead the week. It was a week that I won't ever forget. You lead us through an amazing number of places and ideas. I'll always feel that Lake Ontario is a tremendous gift that I share responsibility for and I hope that I'll be able to convey that to the staff and students that I interact with."

Kristin Sheehan of Pulaski, NY, summed up the experience by saying, "It solidifies the idea that the best kinds of learning are hands-on." Kim Ferguson, a high school teacher from Buffalo summed up the experience in this way: "The information and resources are invaluable and I am excited to implement them into my classroom this year."

Not all the learning will be saved for the classroom, however. As Kit Marshell, a middle school teacher from the Oswego area commented, "I have already shared some post-workshop information with a local fisherman pulling in a goby out of Oswego River, telling him the difference between it and the native sculpin. He said "well how about that, you learn something new every day." The fisherman is right. We all learn something new every day and for that week in July, the educators learned enough to enlighten and inspire them about Lake Ontario for every day in the upcoming school year!