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Teachers Broaden Exotic Learning

Classroom teachers and nonformal educators from across Minnesota and northern Wisconsin recently met at a workshop, “Exotic Species Day Camp,” for a full day of learning and discovery about harmful exotic species. Sponsored by Sea Grant and the Great Lakes Aquarium at Lake Superior Center, the camp gave attendees the opportunity to learn about exotic species such as zebra mussels, ruffe, round goby, purple loosestrife, and sea lamprey.

Nineteen educators explored hands-on exotic species education resources that are now available, but not necessarily geared for youth. Exposure and access to resources will enable these teachers to integrate exotic species programming in K-12 and nonformal education settings.

Following an overview by Doug Jensen, Exotic Species Information Center Coordinator for Minnesota Sea Grant, of threats posed by the “Fab Five” exotic species, attendees got to use and experience new technology. Then Andrew Slade, education director for the Great Lakes Aquarium at Lake Superior Center, led a population dynamics Internet activity where the teachers used computers to access information from the Sea Grant Nonindigenous Species Web site (and others), and CDs such as the Great Lakes Solution Seeker and Great Lakes Information Materials for the Changing Earth System.

“Teachers frequently request resources to educate students about exotic species,” said Bruce Munson, Minnesota Sea Grant marine educator. “The entire day camp experience put attendees in touch with existing materials. It was just the right mix of people and expertise we were hoping to bring together. They generated a lot of new ideas, concepts, and approaches to teaching youth and others about exotic species.” All attendees said they valued the experience. Many said they will use the materials and resources presented.

A resource fair featured other Sea Grant education products, including the Exotic Aquatics and Zebra Mussel Mania traveling trunks. Both trunks are available from lending centers throughout the Great Lakes region (contact Jensen at 218.726.8712). Attendees also experienced a thrill - observing and trying to hold live sea lamprey and Eurasian ruffe, two exotic fish in the Great Lakes.

As a take-home assignment, attendees will develop an issue or concept learned ‘during camp’ for a new activity that will be grouped into a compendium. Activities from five other Sea Grant-sponsored day camps held this summer in the Great Lakes region will also be part of the compendium, which will be made available to schools and learning centers across the country.

By Doug Jensen
December 1998

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