Sheila Myers, the education outreach coordinator for the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and a curriculum she developed was featured in an article in the Finger Lakes Times. “My Place in the Finger Lakes,” a curriculum Myers wrote with the help of teachers and students from the region, takes an interdisciplinary look at the region.
According to the article, “Designed for middle- and high-school students, the curriculum covers the history, geography, geology and ecology of the Finger Lakes. The goal is to provide students with a context for learning science and keep them interested as they progress in their understanding of how the ecology relates to their well-being.”
It quotes Myers as explaining, “Almost every Finger Lake is a drinking water supply. All have threats, but we have a great resource. There’s a reason scientists study these lakes.”
The curriculum is available for teachers to download at http://fli.hws.edu/myplace.
The complete article about My Place in the Finger Lakes follows.
Finger Lakes Times
FL Institute strives for local education
Paulette Likoudis • January 22, 2009
GENEVA – Do you know how many Finger Lakes there are?
Sheila Myers, the Finger Lakes Institute’s education outreach coordinator, was dismayed by the number of students who couldn’t answer that question.
“It seemed that no matter where I went to do outreach – Watkins Glen, Auburn, Rochester or right on the Hobart campus – I found that students knew little about the regional geography,” she said.
“One of the first things I ask students is: Do you know how many Finger Lakes there are? Invariably, they don’t or they guess four or five, and when I ask them to name them, I get answers like Lake Oswego, Oneida, Lake Ontario, as well as a few of the more obvious Finger Lakes like Seneca, Cayuga. Very few know about Otisco or Conesus at either end,” Myers explained.
According to the Institute, based at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, there are 11 lakes. From west to east they are Conesus, Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye, Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles and Otisco.
Frustrated, Myers looked but couldn’t find any structured teaching guides with a focus on the Finger Lakes – and that put her on a mission.
“I’ve been working with teachers and students from around the Finger Lakes region to instill a sense of place and pride about this beautiful area we live in by developing a curriculum called My Place in the Finger Lakes,” said Myers.
Designed for middle- and high-school students, the curriculum covers the history, geography, geology and ecology of the Finger Lakes. The goal is to provide students with a context for learning science and keep them interested as they progress in their understanding of how the ecology relates to their well-being.
“Almost every Finger Lake is a drinking water supply. All have threats, but we have a great resource. There’s a reason scientists study these lakes,” Myers said.
She understands the pressure teachers are under to meet all the requirements they face and wanted to help them incorporate local highlights into their classroom lessons.
“My mission is to make it a little easier on teachers,” said Myers, noting that there are over 250,000 students in about 100 school districts throughout the 14 counties of the Finger Lakes region.
Now, teachers can download free resources at http://fli.hws.edu/myplace, including profiles of each lake, presentations and publications by experts and lesson plans on everything from zebra mussels to acid rain.
Power Point presentations cover topics ranging from fossils to cobblestone houses. There are topographical, geological and satellite maps. Plenty of field trip suggestions are included, too.
“I’m finding teachers are very open and inspiring for me,” said Myers, adding that she now wants them to take the initiative and help the momentum grow.
Last summer, 13 area earth science teachers took advantage of a grant-funded program offered by the Institute in partnership with the state parks department to learn how they could weave the region’s geology into their eighth- and ninth-grade lesson plans. The group explored Letchworth, Treman, Watkins Glen and Taughannock state parks for ideas they could take back to their classrooms.
Laurie VanVleet of Lodi, an eighth-grade physical and earth sciences teacher at Dewitt Middle School in Ithaca, was among teachers who participated. She’s built her own package of resources for teachers. It, too, can be accessed on the Institute’s Web site.
VanVleet agrees that some residents may not be aware of what all the Finger Lakes have to offer.
“You know your own lake, but maybe not the others,” she said.
VanVleet credits My Place in the Finger Lakes for prompting teachers to take students to parks they may not know for activities such as photography and birdwatching. That exposure can have a ripple effect, she said.
“When people become really familiar with a place, then they start to take care of it,” VanVleet observed.
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Public events are offered by the Finger Lakes Institute throughout the year. The next will be a showing of the film “FLOW,” an award-winning documentary on the politics and environmental issues of fresh water supplies for the world’s population, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Albright Auditorium on campus. Register by calling 781-4382 or e-mailing email@example.com.
For more information about classroom and field opportunities for teachers and students, contact Sheila Myers by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on The Finger Lakes Institute, go to http://fli.hws.edu.