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Fisher Biologist Supports Aquatic Ecology Training for Middle and High School Teachers

April 9, 2020

This summer, a group of middle and high school teachers will learn how to incorporate the study of Lake Ontario, and the streams and rivers that flow into it, into their curriculum. The new program—designed by a St. John Fisher College biology professor in collaboration with Genesee RiverWatch and Delta Environmental, Inc.—will connect teachers with tools and opportunities from local, state, and national resources.

Students explore area water ecosystems with Dr. Mike Boller.

Dr. Mike Boller, associate professor of biology and director of Fisher’s Center for Sustainability, recently received a nearly $80,000 grant from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program to create a training and support program for teachers.

“NOAA is interested in promoting educational experiences that get people to learn about the importance of the water cycle and ecology by getting them in and on the water,” he explained.

The new program, “Our Lakes, Streams, and Rivers: Experiential Education and Stewardship in the Lake Ontario Watershed,” will do just that by providing middle and high school teachers with tools and resources available in the Rochester and Finger Lakes regions to teach immersive water education. A four-day workshop in July will help teachers engage their students in aquatic scientific inquiry, including conducting field studies, using equipment, and developing lesson plans for their classrooms that can be implemented in the 2020-2021 academic year. The B-WET training will include trips to the Finger Lakes Institutes’ Stream Monitoring Network Program at Ganondagan State Historic Site, a three-hour environmental education experience on the Sam Patch, and aquatic sampling in the Genesee River, among other experiences.

The program goes beyond training and includes financial support for classrooms to get outside and engaged with the watershed.

Students learn about water ecology through immersive activities.

“This project specifically engages students with activities in and on the water. This place-based model will reinforce that the important concepts aren’t only from a book or the internet, but are important here and now,” Boller said.

Boller hopes that students will feel the ownership and stewardship and will be inspired to create a more sustainable future.

“Stewardship of the watershed is really important now and in the future. Everyone should know where their water comes from, how the things we do impact the water, and how we can work to solve the problems we create through chemical pollution and overuse,” said Boller. “We obviously rely on fresh water for our drinking water, but it supports so much more: our agriculture, industries, and recreation, and most importantly, it is crucial to all of the life around us in our natural environment.”

Our Lakes, Streams, and Rivers: Experiential Education and Stewardship in the Lake Ontario Watershed is in partnership with the NOAA Great Lakes Bay Watershed Education & Training Program. Interested teachers can read more about the program and apply at go.sjfc.edu/watershed.

About the NOAA B-WET Program

The NOAA B-WET program is a competitive grant program that promotes Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences: activities driven by rigorous academic learning standards that aim to increase participants’ understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ecosystems. To read more about the NOAA B-WET program, please visit http://www.noaa.gov/office-education/bwet.