Isle Royale in the Classroom
by Cindy Hagley
Just as a pack of wolves can take down a moose, it took many organizations working together to bring the story of the wolves and moose of Isle Royale to nearly 6,000 students (kindergarten through college), community members, and teachers in Duluth, Minnesota and the surrounding region. A week of workshops, presentations, films, displays, and school events organized by the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) helped to commemorate 50 years of research on the wolves and moose of Isle Royale last November. Minnesota Sea Grant was one of the "pack" helping with funding, exhibits, and workshops.
"The community showed its deep interest in Isle Royale," said lead organizer Tom Beery, from UMD’s Center for Environmental Education. "The event was a great success."
Although thousands of students learned about Lake Superior's biggest island through this event, far more children will gain a deeper appreciation of the Isle Royale ecosystem because 24 teachers from the area attended a day-long workshop sponsored by Minnesota Sea Grant through its leadership role in the Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Great Lakes. Workshop presenters explained the nuances of wolf-moose and predator-prey relationships, and provided a wealth of material to use in classrooms, including curriculum materials, and access to photos and Web resources. It was an opportunity for teachers to learn directly from the scientists conducting the research.
One teacher said, "The best part of the workshop was the stories they told and the chance to talk directly with the scientists."
Other teachers appreciated the real examples of amazing research being done in the Lake Superior region that they could tell students about. Soon after the workshop, one teacher reported that she was already using the wolf/moose population cycles to illustrate a variety of classroom topics.
The stories recounted by the Isle Royale researchers and staff were one of the richest aspects of the week. They told sagas of life and death, of wolves and moose, of discoveries and animal behaviors and interactions, and of how seemingly small observations could dramatically change the direction of research.
Teachers (4th-10th grade) wishing to see Isle Royale for themselves may want to check out a teacher training opportunity scheduled for this summer. Read COSEE Great Lakes Brings Great Opportunities.