Working in partnership with the Illinois Math and Science Academy, educators at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore presented two distance learning broadcasts on invasive species on January 26th.
Five school groups from Oklahoma, Illinois and Indiana learned about genetic research on hybrid cattails during the two 45-minute broadcasts.
The Illinois Math and Science Academy approached the park staff, along with the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, about providing a series of six distance learning broadcasts as part of its pilot project, Global Science Seminars. Each month, a different presentation will take place, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore opted for the first session in the 2011 series.
The class focused on research coordinated by the Great Lakes Research and Education Center on cattails and their genetics. Dr. Joy Marburger, the research coordinator for the center, was the featured speaker and also shared information on a citizen science project developed by the U.S. Geological Survey to collect cattail data across the country. She was hosted by park rangers Cara Kern and Marcus Key, who have been developing education materials and programs on invasive species under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Students were able to write in questions to the presenters during the broadcast to make this an interactive experience. Additional schools and parks can view the recorded presentations on the Academy's Cool Hub website. The park will continue to answer student questions over the next week as more schools watch the broadcast.
With the success of this pilot program, the national lakeshore plans to explore ways to integrate distance learning into its education program.