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Classrooms get Hyper-linked to Water

Minnesota nd Wisconsin map.

RUSS Unit Deployment Sites

Move over stale text and canned data! A team from the University of Minnesota’s Sea Grant program, Natural Resources Research Institute, and College of Education and Human Service Professions have virtually plunged biology students into Ice and Independence Lakes. Water on the Web (WOW) is a project aimed at connecting tomorrow’s problem-solvers to basic science and water issues through advanced technology. Cooperators are refining an Internet site (http://waterontheweb.org) that encourages high school and college classes to explore basic science through aquatic phenomena, problems, and self-designed experiments.

The lessons co-developed by educators and researchers incorporate field research, traditional laboratory experiments, and access to current lake data through cellular phone linkages between computers and Remote Underwater Sampling Station (RUSS) units. The solar-powered RUSS units measure water temperature, pH, conductivity, turbidity, depth, and dissolved oxygen content.

In 1998, two units found homes in Ice Lake (Grand Rapids, MN) and Lake Independence (15 miles west of Minneapolis, MN) until they were removed in November to accommodate the anticipated freeze-up. Assuming the lakes freeze during this unusual winter, researchers will cut holes in the ice so the units can be placed back into the lakes and continue to monitor conditions.

A total of four RUSS units will be incorporated into WOW lesson plans. In addition to the units in Ice and Independence Lakes, a third RUSS unit will measure the characteristics of the St. Louis River as it empties into Lake Superior, and a fourth unit will record the dynamics of Lake Mille Lacs, a well-known fishing destination. All of these locations were chosen because of their geographic diversity, allowing students to compare and contrast the unique characteristics.

Students can program RUSS units to collect data that allow them to explore issues as fundamental as temperature variations and as specific as whether trout might survive in a particular water system. Lesson plans tie basic biology to new technology such as Geographic Information Systems, Web site hyper-links, and RUSS. Twenty lesson plans have been completed, 11 of which are currently accessible for pilot-testing through the WOW Internet site.

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According to Cindy Hagley, Minnesota Sea Grant Water Quality Educator, the high school and community college classes pilot-testing WOW lessons have enjoyed the diverse course framework. “The educators and students are enthusiastic about using real environmental data to study math and science,” she said.

The National Science Foundation provided three years of funding with the expectation that the project will create a successful link between remote sampling technology and the classroom.

For more information about WOW, contact Bruce Munson, Minnesota Sea Grant Marine Educator, at 218.726.6324 or by e-mail.


By Sharon Moen
December 1998

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