OK – picture this – a relaxing boat ride in the Finger Lakes on a warm, sunny day – a cool breeze, calm waters, and interesting people. Wasting away in Margaritaville? Not quite - Science on Seneca!
The Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges sponsors Science on Seneca as an educational outreach program. It is meant to enhance the teaching of environmental science in the region, introduce students to the field of environmental studies in an authentic floating laboratory, provide useful content and standards-based curricula for teachers, and expand the understading of the Finger Lakes Watershed through long-term monitoring of Seneca Lake. I highly recommend taking advantage of this experience.
The program is open to in-service teachers, with a limit of 20 per day. The day begins with a classroom-based overview, then it’s 3 hours on the lake learning how to collect samples and run a variety of tests on them. It is hands-on and minds-on. After returning to the classroom and a good sandwich, the instructors introduce a variety of lesson plans and other resources available to teachers. The lessons include chemistry, biology, earth science and interdisciplinary topics. After completing the program, teachers are eligible to bring their classes for field trips for a nominal fee of $15 plus transportation.
The lesson plans and loads of information are available at http://fli.hws.edu/sos/. There are a few limitations to be aware of. First, the boat can only hold 22 warm bodies, so you’ll need to limit your group size. Up to two trips can be arranged per day. Second, there is a mandatory ‘tour’ of campus for the students either before or after the boat tour. Third, there are strict policies regarding footware, behavior, clothing, and insurance waivers – these are meant to assure safety for the students. Lastly, there are very few weather conditions that result in cancelling of the boat trip, so your students (and you) will need to tough it out if it is cold/rainy/windy. You may want to bring some ginger or other potions for those who are prone to sea-sickness.
I learned a tremendous amount today about zebra mussels and other invasive species, their impact on the local environment and the controversy that surrounds taking measures to reduce their numbers. I also re-learned how to use a Secchi disk and how to test for dissolved oxygen chemically instead of using an ion-specific electrode. It was science at its best! I hope to bring a group of students next year to share the experience.