Hands-on training

PUT-IN-BAY – Seven teachers from area schools visited The Ohio State University Stone Laboratory Wednesday to explore the facility and practice using equipment they received through a grant earlier this year.

The Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District and North Central Ohio Educational Service Center joined to incorporate the project, Watershed Dynamics for 21st Century Learners, into classrooms.

The science teachers from Bettsville, Hopewell-Loudon, Mohawk, Old Fort and Seneca East schools and North Central Academy, along with members of the Stone Lab and Heidelberg University’s Water Quality Lab will join on several workshops to practice with the equipment and technology.

The Ohio Environmental Education Fund through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will be funding the project, which includes equipment, training and resources totaling $48,667.

The equipment purchased with grant money includes brochures, educational tools and software, jars for collection, nitrate and alkaline kits, pH sensors and testing probes.

Wednesday, the teachers focused on chemical sampling at the Stone Lab, such as testing the nitrate and phosphate levels in lake water and measuring pH levels and alkalinity. The group is to perform biological sampling May 17 at the Water Quality Lab at Heidelberg.

Over the summer, teachers is to write lesson plans to be shared with other teachers in the project. The following year, teachers are to bring students to the Stone Lab.

“Students can learn to do science anywhere,” Jennifer Shuck, science teacher from Mohawk, said. “Some students believe that they need to be in a big city to be able to do science, but we are lucky to have the resources like Lake Erie and the Stone Lab here.”

As teachers, Shuck said it is neat to be the student and experience what students experience when the technology doesn’t work just right.

“It’s nice to work with other educators and to work out and fix the problems together,” Shuck said.

At the Stone Lab, researcher Justin Chaffin and lab manager Matt Thomas discussed ways to incorporate data collection methods into the classroom and innovative experiments for the students.

“It is exciting to see the expertise of university researchers doing real-world science and for teachers to bring that back into the classroom,” Beth Diesch, education coordinator of SSWCD, said. “By using chemical and biological sampling, we can see the ecological health of watersheds and how our community can effect a larger one like Lake Erie.”

Chaffin discussed several experiments such as a nutrient enrichment experiment, in which students can create algal blooms in the classroom by adding or subtracting phosphate to a sample of water.

Other experiments Chaffin discussed were testing phosphate concentration before and after rain; using a Secchi disk to measure turbidity, or cloudiness, of water; and the weather effects of ponds and creeks.

Jon Darkow, science teacher from Seneca East High School, said, “My hope is that students will discover more sustainable and responsible behaviors for our community. Ultimately, I hope my students leave the world a better place. Unfortunately, they have inherited an environment that has so many complex problems. Our fish are polluted with mercury, our drinking water is polluted with atrazine, and our entire global climate system is changing. All of these issues are connected to the dynamics of a watershed, and these are problems our kids are going to have to figure out.”

“I hope the students are able to get a sense of doing real science and seeing what real scientists do everyday,” Connie Tyree, science teacher from Seneca East, said. “We do data collection in the lab in a controlled environment, but by getting out of the classroom, they are able practice science by not just answering questions but to see the impact we have on our local communities.”