On a warm and sunny day in September, sixth graders from three schools in Defiance, Ohio joined a team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, the City of Defiance, the Defiance Soil and Water Conservation District, General Motors, and the U.S. Geological Survey to experience a hands-on tour of the GLRI funded Phosphorus Optimal Wetland Demonstration Project (P-Optimal).
This opportunity is an example how educators can connect today’s youth to real science that impacts the world around them. The Phosphorus Optimal Wetland Demonstration is helping to reduce excess nutrient loads into the Maumee River and ultimately Lake Erie.
Xunzi, Confucian, a Chinese philosopher said it best, "tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
“Restoring and improving the health of the Great Lakes takes hard work and innovation in the actions we take today for the benefit of our future generations” said Tim Noon, USACE Buffalo District project manager.
The students from Ayersville, Fairview, and Tinora Elementary Schools, guided by teachers and parents, split into three groups where they rotated through stations as they learned about turbidity, which is how cloudy water is and how much sediment is in the water, utilized microscopes to get a closer look at insects and other objects, measured the pH balance of water drawn from the project, and toured the different functions of the P-Optimal project.
This Great Lakes Restoration Initiative-funded project is designed to find ways to reduce levels of phosphorus, which has been identified as a key driver of harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie. As students toured the site they learned about project’s importance to and impacts to communities across the Great Lakes Basin.
Experiencing activities at each station, instructors guided students through the tools and equipment utilized to measure turbidity, pH balance of the water drawn from the project, and the different parts of the objects including spiders and other organisms.
Leading the instruction were community members including Juan Martinez who grew up in Defiance, OH and graduated from Defiance High School, Katelyn Smith, a graduate of Defiance College, and Jennifer English, the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems Coordinator for the city of Defiance.
This connection and the ability of all the instructors to relate to the students was a key factor in keeping their attention and keeping them involved as the warmth and new information threatened to pull their concentration. It also shows students how what they are learning is applied and public service job opportunities.
“It was a great day and a meaningful experience to partner with those who will help reduce and in time eliminate the harmful algal blooms in the future. Providing students this opportunity expanded the classroom and provided them an understanding that will stay with them and create the next generation of scientist or engineer that will help improve the water quality of the Western Lake Erie Basin,” said Noon.
Phosphorus Optimal Wetland Demonstration Website: https://www.lrd.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Great-Lakes-Restoration-Initiative-GLRI/Optimal-Phosphorus-Wetland/
Phosphorus Optimal Wetland Demonstration Webinar: https://youtu.be/uMhLyXYXJ_U?si=0C0Xl1vSytZYOdVu
Photos of the Phosphorus Optimal Wetland Demonstration can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/buffalousace/albums/72177720311664780