The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration awarded UToledo a nearly $80,000 grant to fund
the STEM educational project titled Maumee River FLOWS —floating
laboratory on watershed science.
A central feature of the project
is to transform the large Maumee River tour boat, the Sandpiper,
into a laboratory for science and art classes by equipping it
with sensors, sampling gear and water-testing equipment. Data
available from NOAA buoys in nearby Lake Erie and U.S.
Geological Survey river gauge stations will allow students to
engage with live river and lake data throughout the year.
The funding, which runs through
October 2022, also covers the cost of an estimated 30 science
cruises aboard the Sandpiper during the 16 months of the
project, which can accommodate about 600 students in total.
“Our goal is to foster in
teachers and students an awareness and sense of connection with
and responsibility for the waters of the Great Lakes,” said Dr.
Thomas Bridgeman, professor of ecology and director of the
UToledo Lake Erie Center.
“Hundreds of school-age children
cross the Maumee River every day, yet have never had the
opportunity to venture onto the river or touch the water. Many
have never even seen Lake Erie, a mere five miles downstream. We
want to get students out on the river, touching the water and
becoming aware of its influence on their Great Lake.”
Focused on schools in and near
the downtown area along the Maumee River, the project is joined
by local partners including Toledo Public Schools, Toledo School
for the Arts, Maritime Academy of Toledo, Lucas Soil and Water
Conservation District, Partners for Clean Streams and the
The Lake Erie Center plans to
train 10 middle school and high school teachers to use the
scientific equipment on board the Sandpiper and provide context
to the adventure on the water when the class returns to school.
“The 2014 ‘Toledo Water Crisis’
made everyone in the region aware of the problem of harmful
algal blooms, what we call HABs,” Bridgeman said. “Many
residents, however, remain unaware of the central role of the
Maumee River in gathering agricultural HAB-causing nutrients
from the watershed and delivering them to Lake Erie and of the
urban effects on the river stemming from storm-water drains,
road salt runoff and sewage treatment plant outflows.”
Students will reflect and present
their “meaningful watershed educational experience” through
science presentations or artistic media.
Students and teachers also will
work on stewardship action projects that focus on urban effects
on waterways, such as labelling and protecting street storm
drains, installing rain barrels and rain gardens, designing
alternate parking lot salting schemes, or stream litter removal.
The project is designed to
accommodate social distancing and safety procedures required by
the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The passenger deck of the
Sandpiper is an ideal platform for a socially distanced learning
experience,” Bridgeman said. “Designed to carry 100 passengers,
the Sandpiper can carry up to 50 passengers with social
distancing and an ideal class size of up to 30 students.”
The Lake Erie Center is UToledo’s
freshwater research and science education campus focused on
finding solutions to water quality issues that face the Great
Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species and