Marine Extension Center and Georgia Sea Grant: Future teachers and elementary school students learn about wetland ecology
UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant work with students from the College of Coastal Georgia to monitor a freshwater wetland at a local elementary school and develop wetland ecology educational lesson plans for elementary school students and intermediaries.
“Freshwater wetlands in coastal regions provide important habitat and resources for wildlife as well as ecosystem services that benefit humans, such as water filtration and protection from floods and storm surges. “said Katy Smith, water quality program coordinator at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “This project will allow us to study this habitat, learn from it and encourage stewardship of these areas for the benefit of wildlife and humans. “
On the project, which is funded by the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Smith partnered with the faculty of the College of Coastal Georgia, James Deemy, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences, and Amy Sneed, assistant professor, to provide experiential training for undergraduates at the college.
Deemy and Smith work together to advise students pursuing a science degree to conduct research at the site.
Kayla Russo, a rising senior at the College of Coastal Georgia, heard about the wetland project during her hydrology class and decided to help with the weekly monitoring.
“I was taking different measurements of the water, like conductivity, turbidity, and I was also doing soil moisture transects,” said Russo, who specializes in environmental science. “I liked what I did in class, which was limited because we didn’t have all the instruments, so I was able to deepen the [wetland] program.”
Baseline wetland monitoring data is incorporated into lesson plans developed by senior teacher candidates at the College of Coastal Georgia, with guidance from Sneed who coordinates middle and secondary education.
In the first year of the project, six lesson plans were developed that cover hydrology and soils, water chemistry, plant classification, environmental impact and life cycles and habitat. from wildlife.
Lessons are piloted by students participating in the Marsh Lab program at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School, which is led by Karen Garrett, who teaches at the school. As part of the program, Garrett works with all grade levels to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it outdoors through interactive experiences.
“I take their science program and bring it to life,” Garrett said. “Because they can’t do hands-on science experiments in class due to time constraints, they come to me every two weeks and we do experiments.”
With the new lesson plans, students learn topics such as water clarity, amphibians, soils, and trees using real data collected by students. They are also able to conduct wetland experiments using certain research equipment, such as a rain gauge, which was installed by college students.
According to Garrett, involving students in the natural world encourages them to use scientific research, investigation and exploration to complement their science curriculum. Having students take courses directly related to this important habitat in their school will help foster a sense of stewardship of this natural resource.
“They are able to see the wetland and how it can be affected by their actions, so hopefully they can take that and create ideas for future actions or create their own opinions on environmental issues,” said Garrett.
The project also helped summer interns achieve some of the goals. In the summer of 2020, Samantha Lance, a rising junior at Washington University in St. Louis, created a series of educational materials such as lesson plans for colleges, wetland educational activities in St. Louis. freshwater and climate change, an Instagram story and a coloring book featuring wetland plants and animals.
In the summer of 2021, Hunter Molock, an ascending senior at Savannah College of Art and Design, will illustrate and design a series of educational signs to enhance the Discovery Trail at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School. The final signs will showcase wildlife, habitats and more and will be installed in the fall of 2021.
“The overarching objective of this project is to promote the appreciation and conservation of coastal freshwater wetlands,” said Smith. “We hope that the resources created during the project will provide students with continued opportunities to learn, study and protect this important habitat.”
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This press release was produced by Marine Extension Center and Georgia Sea Grant. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.