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December 01, 2011

Teacher Feature: Freshwater Ecology Program

TFE 021Last summer, Elmwood Park High School biology and physics teacher Matt Lazzarotto was accepted into the freshwater ecology program, one of Shedd's weeklong professional development programs. Shedd partnered with Minneapolis-based Wilderness Inquiry, an outdoor education company, to host 10 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers from across the country. Matt and the other educators spent a week camping and kayaking on Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin, using the same techniques as park researchers to investigate the health of different aquatic ecosystems.

Inspired, Matt shared his excitement for hands-on scientific research with his students. After buying supplies, he took his science club to the Des Plaines River in River Grove where they tried their hands at macroinvertebrate sampling. Using the techniques Matt learned, students caught insects and mollusks in the field, identified them and made predictions about the water quality based on the findings.

"I was out-of-my-mind excited to get these kids in the water. We identified as many macroinvertebrates as possible and brought the data back to the classroom. We actually found mayfly nymph larvae, along with damselfly larvae, leeches, bloodworm midge larvae, right-handed snails, fingernail clams and what I think were Asiatic clams."

Matt is now teaming up with one of his colleagues and Friends of the Chicago River to plan a day trip with their classes to perform water-quality testing or macroinvertebrate collection and identification. He hopes through this, his students will start to think of themselves as real field scientists.

Interested in sharing a lesson that you've created? E-mail teacherservices@sheddaquarium.org.

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