New Avenues for Education at the Aquarium
by Sharon Moen
Before University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) undergraduates are accepted into a program that will prepare them for a career in education, they must volunteer to teach for 60 hours. They could spend their time tutoring senior high students in math or reading to pre-schoolers. Now, thanks to Minnesota Sea Grant's graduate student intern, Sarah Donahue, half of these hours can be spent apprenticing with the pros at the Great Lakes Aquarium (GLA) and culminate in opportunities to speak about Lake Superior at area schools.
"I see this as a chance for pre-education students to make their mandatory volunteer time amazing and for school kids to benefit from the incredible natural and educational resources we have in this area," said Donahue, who coordinated Partners in Education, the agreement uniting the GLA and Sea Grant with UMD and its future teachers.
"This sounded like a fun way to get experience in an interesting setting," said Eric Ellefson, a sophomore at UMD who aspires to teach elementary school. "From the first time I visited, I thought the aquarium put a lot of effort into making itself a cool place for learning and I'm looking forward to getting a 'behind-the-scenes' look at how their educational program operates."
Ellefson is one of the six UMD volunteers that the GLA has agreed to take under its wing (or maybe that should be fin) and show the multi-faceted approaches it uses for education. Starting in February, these first half-dozen pre-education students will observe and work beside professional educators from America's only all-freshwater aquarium. By the end of their semester-long tenure as Partners in Education, the volunteers will be conducting pre- or post-aquarium activities in local schools.
Dave Schaeffer, the director of education at the GLA is enthusiastic about the potential outcomes of this partnership. "The Great Lakes Aquarium has always embraced the mission of capturing the wonder and excitement of Lake Superior while inspiring responsibility for and understanding of fresh water," he said. "Partners in Education is a fantastic opportunity to simultaneously spread our messages to more school classrooms and help tomorrow's educators teach effectively about Lake Superior."
Partners in Education is the result of the shared goals of Minnesota Sea Grant and the GLA and Donahue's ability to recognize then set opportunity in motion. Donahue will graduate from UMD with a M.E. in environmental education this spring but she will leave Partners in Education as a new avenue for pre-education students and area schools to learn about fresh water.
For more information about Partners in Education, or to inquire about school and youth group field trips at the GLA, call the GLA Education Program at (218) 740-2007; or e-mail them at: email@example.com.