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Teachers Respond to Operation Pathfinder

They scoured beaches, sweated over computers, pored over aquatic invertebrates, and took graded tests. These teachers weren’t enjoying a leisurely two weeks of summer; they were the chosen participants in Minnesota Sea Grant’s Operation Pathfinder program. Even after completing inservice presentations and an essay exam, participants said in their evaluations:

“Whoa-this is the best course I have ever taken on teacher training and the sciences.”

“Excellent course! Loved it and would recommend it to anyone! Would love to be involved again!”

“In nine years of teaching and attending numerous courses and workshops, I found Operation Pathfinder to surpass every single one in methodology, applicability to my classroom, in level of expertise of presenters, in variety of skills I learned, in appropriate and interesting fieldwork, and in pure interest level.”

Madeline Island ferry.

Great Lakes teachers enjoyed a ride aboard the Madeline Island ferry to study the island’s environment.

Operation Pathfinder, the national training course designed to ignite interest in oceanography and limnology, immersed twenty-nine teachers in an intense aquatic experience. For fifteen continuous days and evenings in June teachers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois joined the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) for a four-credit graduate course that had them on and around water and surrounded by aquatic issues. As part of their training, they analyzed water samples from the deck of UMD’s research vessel, the Blue Heron, and studied seiche events on Madeline Island. They ventured up the North Shore to study geology and through a seventy-foot inflatable whale to learn marine facts.

Bruce Munson, Sea Grant marine educator, guided the group through presentations by experts on plate tectonics, pollution, aquatic nuisance species, and marine communities. As in 1997, when Operation Pathfinder was first offered at UMD, Munson aimed to equip the participating teachers with skills, understanding, and enthusiasm that could energize their school’s curriculum on oceanography and limnology.

In addition to field trips and guest lectures, this year’s course placed special emphasis on technology by incorporating workshops offered by STARBORD (Stimulating Teachers About Resources for Broad Oceanographic Research and Discovery) and Ocean Voyagers. With guidance and computer-power from the Mississippi State University STARBORD team, participants designed inservice presentations incorporating state-of-the-art software and learned to construct Web pages. The Ocean Voyagers crew from St. Norbert College in Wisconsin introduced the teachers to avenues through which they and their students can access data from ocean vessels, including the “teachers-to-sea” experience offered by the Office of Naval Research.

Operation Pathfinder is part of a network of courses funded through the Office of Naval Research and the National Sea Grant Program. Participants were selected from a pool of applicants and provided with room, board, tuition, and almost a suitcase full of resource packages. The teachers plan to integrate their summer coursework into lessons for children and young adults in subjects ranging from science to English.


By Sea Grant Staff
November 1999

Return to November 1999 Seiche



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