LSSI News & Events

Initiative News


Tracking a changing world Tech hosts 9th annual Global Change Teacher Institute

by Meagan Stilp (
The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - This week the teachers have become the students at Michigan Technological University's ninth annual Global Change Teacher Institute. The 12 upper elementary, middle and high school teachers are investigating global change - not just warming - and learning hands-on ways to bring that knowledge back to the classroom.

"Teachers are always looking for real world objectives, it makes it much more engaging for their students. There's definitely a lot of talk about climate changing - not just warming but changing," said Joan Chadde, coordinator. "A lot of research has been done and teachers don't often have an opportunity to interact with experts in the field."

Wednesday the participating teachers spent part of the afternoon learning about - and digging for - earthworms. Led by Lynette Potvin, ecologist at the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station Houghton Forest Science Laboratory, they put a solution of mustard powder and water on the ground, and the teachers were able to force different species of worms to rise out of the soil for identification, including non-native earthworms.

"This is an example of how earthworms have changed the environment, because they're technically non-native. They were scraped away by the glaciers so they should be down in Kentucky but we're finding them here. If we do the calculation of the rate of movement and say 10,000 years ago the glaciers were here, we know they couldn't have made it in time. They have been moved here by people and, generally, by people fishing," Chadde said.

Throughout the presentation, which included debunking some earthworm myths such as being able to cut them in half without killing them, Potvin and the teachers present talked about ways to use the method with their students. Zakiya Jackson, a middle school teacher at Ralph J. Bunche Academy in Detroit, said she would definitely be using the worm-digging activity with her students.

"They're children with cognitive impairments so getting the lessons that are hands-on to take back is really good for my kids," she said. "They're going to love this. I'm going to do this with them."

During different sessions throughout the week led by lead instructor Andrew Burton, a Michigan Tech professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, and other experts, the teachers learn about different types of global change, including changes in land use, the effects of adding elements like nitrogen and carbon to the ecosystem, invasive species and more. Although they seemed to enjoy the activities themselves, the teachers' main goal was to use their new knowledge to engage and educate their students.

"We like to say 'science is a verb' --- kids should get to do science. They can take them back and design mini research projects the kids can conduct themselves," Chadde said.