The Colleges’ Science on Seneca program was featured in The Citizen (Auburn) on Oct. 11. The article followed students from Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES Center for Learning aboard the William Scandling as they tested and observed water quality.
“The students, who represented most of the nine component districts of BOCES, participated in different stations as the boat moved to different parts of the lake. At each stop, students got to pick through and analyze water and sediment samples from different depths, ranging from 6 to 40 meters,” the article explained.
The full article follows.
Science at sea
Kelly Voll • October 11, 2010
SENECA LAKE – How do you tell what lake bottom sediment is made up of? Well, you taste some, naturally.
If it’s mostly clay, the sediment will melt in your mouth like M&Ms. If it’s mostly silt, you can feel the granules between your teeth.
Ann Moore, a teacher at the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES Center for Learning, in Auburn, performed this sediment tasting while aboard the William Scandling, a 65-foot research vessel that took 14 BOCES alternative level II ninth-graders and a group of teachers and experts out onto Seneca Lake Tuesday, Oct. 5.
The field trip’s objective was to allow the students a chance to test and observe water quality as part of their class curriculum. The Hobart and William Smith Colleges Science on Seneca program allowed the BOCES teachers to take the students on the trip at what they said was a very affordable price.
Although students groaned in disgust as their teacher tasted the lake mud, they said they enjoyed learning that science is not just about sitting in a classroom. They experienced field research – the same tests college students and faculty run to determine a lake’s health, its inhabitants and its history.
The students, who represented most of the nine component districts of BOCES, participated in different stations as the boat moved to different parts of the lake. At each stop, students got to pick through and analyze water and sediment samples from different depths, ranging from 6 to 40 meters.
Kaylee Smith, a ninth-grader whose home district is Jordan-Elbridge, said she enjoyed learning about the sludge they found at the bottom of the lake and how it encapsulates history in the form of runoff and pollen that has come from the land around the lake.
“I think it’s really interesting,” Smith said. “I really like science. It’s probably my favorite subject. I think I’m really lucky that I have the opportunity to go out (on the water). I’ve never really been out on a big boat. It’s a different experience.”
Students performed chemistry experiments on water samples, identified and sketched microscopic organisms that live in the water and looked at quagga muscles that live on the lake’s bottom.
Sheila Myers, education coordinator at Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Finger Lakes Institute, said the Science on Seneca program is more than 20 years old and has a large geographic reach.
“People are coming from very far away to experience this,” she said.
Myers estimated that more than 5,000 teachers and more than 20,000 students have participated in the program since its inception in 1986.
“It gives students a chance to learn what our students and faculty are studying on the lake,” she said.
Myers said the Science on Seneca program aims to reach students who may have not considered a career in science, have never gained hands-on experience in the field, and who haven’t been on a boat like the Scandling before.
“In the sciences right now, there is a push to get more students who are underrepresented involved,” she said.
Amy Senn, math and science teacher for alternative level II ninth grade, said most of the students and teachers at the Center for Learning are hands-on learners and enjoy actually doing a lesson rather than just reading about it. “Doing it ties in real life activities,” she said. “We’ll be pulling from (this experience) all year long.”
The students took a tour of Hobart and William Smith Colleges after the boat trip. Senn said the tour is good for the students because they can begin to imagine themselves in college and they see the linkages between what they are studying now and a path to a career.
“Then it becomes something they can aim for,” she said.
Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.