On Air: NYSG Offers Educational Resources for Teachers and Students
New York's Great Lakes: Ecosystem Education Exchange - News


Nate Drag, NYSG Great Lakes Literacy Specialist, E: nwd4@cornell.edu, P: 716-645-3610 

Filed by Dave Rowley, News Director, WDOE Dunkirk 

Buffalo, NY, September 9, 2021 - New York Sea Grant has a number of K-12 resources for teachers home schoolers. That from Nate Drag, the program's Great Lakes Literacy Specialist. 

Drag spoke about the new curriculum available for educators during recent a call-in appearance to WDOE 1040 AM / 94.9 FM's "Viewpoint" program, which is broadcast in the greater Syracuse and Oswego regions.

Viewpoint airs on WDOE Monday through Friday at 8:45am. Dave Rowley has been handling the hosting duties for more than 20 years, interviewing local, county and state elected officials. Community groups are also featured on the 15-minute live interview show. Listeners email their questions to Dave, who includes those inquires in the interviews. 

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Full Transcript: 

Speaker1: [00:00:00] Time now for Viewpoint. Here is WDOE News Director Dave Rowley.

Speaker1: [00:00:03] And welcome to Viewpoint on our live line this morning. We have the New York Sea Grant, Great Lakes Coastal Literacy Specialist Nate Drag with us, also a Dunkirk native. Nate, welcome to the program.

Speaker2: [00:00:22] Thanks, Dave. Happy to be here.

Speaker1: [00:00:23] Yeah, great to be talking with you. Maybe tell us a little bit about your position now [00:00:30] with New York Sea Grant.

Speaker2: [00:00:32] Sure. The title is a it's a mouthful. Sometimes I wish they could just call me Great Lakes guy because my job is really to talk to the public, teachers, students, pretty much anyone that's interested in learning about the Great Lakes and the role that they play in our lives and how we can impact them. And my role within New York Sea Grant is to focus on the education side. Some of my colleagues focus on the research side, and we have staff all across New York from [00:01:00] Lake Erie through Long Island, doing research and working with the public and educators around our coastal communities and resources.

Speaker1: [00:01:08] And you're also the Associate Director of the Great Lakes Program at the University of Buffalo.

Speaker2: [00:01:16] That's right. That's right. Yeah. My my office is at UB and the Great Lakes program is all about translating the great research that's happening here at UB around the Great Lakes to the general public. So there's engineers, there's chemists, [00:01:30] there's biologists doing really technical, really great research. But sometimes that's that's a lot to translate to the general public or even to to children. So I help kind of distill that down to the nuggets of information that that we can take with with us and understand what's going on in the lakes. And and if they're doing better, where they're struggling, how we can help them, because there's a lot of challenges, but there's a lot of opportunity. So that's really what the Great Lakes program at UAB is focused on, meeting [00:02:00] those, those challenges and connecting to the public.

Speaker1: [00:02:03] So now we're into the first week of school and New York Sea Grant has a number of resources focused as far as education for K through 12 teachers home schoolers. Tell us tell us about the availability of these resources.

Speaker2: [00:02:25] Yeah. Every everything that Sea Grant has put together over the past few years [00:02:30] is on a website called the Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange. And that program is a partnership between New York Sea Grant and the New York D.E.C. On that site, you'll find a few brand new resources that have come out in the last year that look at science and the Great Lakes from an interdisciplinary perspective. So we have our environmental enviro time storytime recommended reading list, and that's a list of about 50 books, everything from preschool and kindergarten [00:03:00] up through high school, all focused on different science topics, local Great Lakes issues, global issues, different individuals involved in science and how it's shaped their career. And then there's also a component of what kids can do about it, how they can get involved in protecting the environment. And each one of those books has an activity that goes along with it, and that can even be done in the classroom, in the field or at home. So it's a resource for parents or home schoolers as well.

Speaker1: [00:03:29] Now, there's also [00:03:30] information available about the oldest and longest living native fishes in Lake Erie.

Speaker2: [00:03:39] That. That's right. I'm glad you brought that one up. That's my personal favorite. That's all about Lake Sturgeon, which are such an amazing fish. And, you know, when I talk to people and say there can be a fish that can live up to be 100 years old and grow up to be eight feet long swimming right you know, right in Lake Erie, right past point grass. But it won't eat you like a shark. It's probably more scared [00:04:00] of us than than we would be of them. But lake sturgeon are an amazing species that historically had huge numbers in our region. But because of habitat change, overfishing and pollution, their numbers are really low, but they're making a comeback. And they've recently found sturgeon spawning in the Genesee River and the rock in the Rochester region for the first time in decades. So this resource that Sea Grant put together is a ten activity lesson plan all around Lake Sturgeon. So looking at their life cycle, their role [00:04:30] in the food chain, and also their social and historical importance, there's a few activities focused on the Native American perspective and the role that Sturgeon played in their culture. There's some lessons around literacy where you read a story about the entire lifespan of a sturgeon and you follow it through time over a hundred years. And and when you're reading it, kids can really get an idea of what challenges that sturgeon face and kind of empathize with the and [00:05:00] it's really exciting, I think. And there's an exhibit in Buffalo actually at the Burchfield Penney where they have some live juvenile sturgeon in a tank and kids can go and check them out and and these sturgeon will be released into those Great Lakes. So really exciting time for sturgeon and that resource is available online and it is also aligned with New York State learning standards as well. So teachers can take this and plug it right into their class.

Speaker1: [00:05:25] And there are so many different aspects of [00:05:30] Lake Erie, the Great Lakes, when it comes to educating young people. It also played a big role with the Underground Railroad.

Speaker2: [00:05:42] Yeah. And you know, that resource is really exciting too, because it kind of takes a topic that is traditionally taught in social studies or history, the Underground Railroad, and brings it into science and brings it into modern times as well. So that's an eight activity lesson curriculum and some of [00:06:00] the activities focus on how people are participating in the Underground Railroad, either as guides or moving from the south and north, use their local environment and natural knowledge to navigate because there wasn't a map. But they had to use native species. They had to understand different watersheds and they had to use the stars for navigation. So you learn about the role that that environment in nature played in that movement. And then there's also a great activity in there that I like around a park [00:06:30] in Buffalo that was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad before people could get to Canada. And it puts students in a situation where they're almost a consultant to the city talking about how they would redesign the park to incorporate ecological restoration, but also historical information and social information. So it's an important meeting point for the community now that recognizes the past, the future environment, really cool stuff, I think. So I'm hoping that that kid can really [00:07:00] get engaged with that and make the connection to their local communities because we have such an amazing resource right out our back door. Sure. Totally significant right there.

Speaker1: [00:07:09] Absolutely. Now, besides educating young people, New York Sea Grant also works with teachers, right?

Speaker2: [00:07:20] That's right. Yeah. Yeah. So one of my main focuses is to support teachers in their efforts to integrate this type of learning into [00:07:30] their classrooms and help them in any way that they need to really help kids understand the role of the Great Lakes in our communities. So we do professional development workshops throughout the year. Over the summer, I did four workshops at different state parks across New York's Great Lakes. So in western New York we were at Evangola, and then I was all across Lake Ontario doing a few more. But it was an opportunity to get teachers out to the lakeshore in a beautiful setting. [00:08:00] And then fortunately, we had great weather every day. We were outdoors, we're at a picnic shelter. We're meeting with state parks officials and biologists to understand the restoration projects going on at the parks. Exploring opportunities for our teachers can get their students to the parks through various grants or other programs. And then talking about some of the lessons from those resources that I was just discussing, how they can use those in the classroom, use them at the park, or even have kids use them at home. So that's really one of my goals, [00:08:30] is to help support both teachers in the classroom, informal educators at nature centers or parks or even parents that want to work on this stuff with their students. And I learned as much from from the teachers I think I give them, if not more, because they're right there and they do a great job and I'm there to help them.

Speaker1: [00:08:48] Are we seeing more educators starting to dive into some of these topics and and share their their new knowledge with [00:09:00] their students?

Speaker2: [00:09:02] I think so. I think there's a growing appreciation for local place based education, kind of using our local environment as, you know, the model or the laboratory to help make the connection with with their students because it's in their everyday lives. You know, the rainforest and different regions of the world are amazing. But, you know, we can't walk out our door and get to the rainforest, unfortunately. But we can get to Lake Erie. And, you know, when I was growing up in Dunkirk, [00:09:30] going to the point and right park, it was right there. And, you know, you don't realize how unique and important that really is until you leave and realize not everyone has one of the biggest lakes in the world right here. So I think teachers are definitely starting to use that more and than they have in the past. And I was fortunate to have that experience growing up in Dunkirk as well. But I think it's a great opportunity and teachers are getting really creative and and integrating. Even their [00:10:00] area right around schools or in neighborhoods, because there's so much opportunity to learn every time you walk out the door.

Speaker1: [00:10:07] Now, how can more schools and more teachers access this information? Where can they go? Is there a website?

Speaker2: [00:10:20] There is, yeah. New York Sea Grant has the Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange website, which will have all those documents that I talked about, [00:10:30] the three curriculum, as well as information about our basin bins, which are a physical bin full of probably about 25 or so different activities and lesson plans and equipment that teachers can borrow, use in their school, share with their students and other teachers, and then bring it back. And then we share it with another school. But all of that stuff is available on our website. The basin bins are located throughout New York State. There's one at Lake Erie State Park down in Brockton. I have some here in [00:11:00] Buffalo. So really just go online. You can reserve it. We can either ship it to or I can drop it off. And then we have our professional development opportunities listed on there. And and we're going to be focusing this year on connecting new and young teachers with some of the experienced teachers that have been doing this place based Great Lakes education for a long time. So they can really have that support right in their school and learn from from folks that have been there. You know, I can talk to them about sturgeon all day long, but I'm not in the [00:11:30] classroom the way some of the experienced teachers are. So I really want to help facilitate that connection for the new teachers as well.

Speaker1: [00:11:36] And I'm sure you want to encourage other school districts around western New York, here in Chautauqua County, to really take a look at what New York Sea Grant is doing.

Speaker2: [00:11:53] Yeah, 100%. You know, my my job is to connect with teachers, you know, from as far south [00:12:00] as Ripley, up through the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence River. So I cover that whole territory. But it's always great to work with teachers in Chautauqua County on some of the beaches that I've known for years and learn from what they've been doing to, you know, there's a lot of great programs out there that the teachers have already incorporated, whether it's water quality monitoring or beach cleanups, or I spoke with a teacher in Rochester that has their students testing for eDNA in local rivers to identify what type of fish [00:12:30] are there based on the DNA information that that's in the water. So really interesting stuff. And if I can help connect teachers across the state with each other, I can share resources with them. I'm very happy to do that.

Speaker1: [00:12:42] Well, Nate, it's been great talking with you this morning, sharing your knowledge. And again, we appreciate anything else you'd like to add.

Speaker2: [00:12:52] Just I was happy to be here. I appreciate the opportunity. And I look forward to to meeting with more teachers and talking with more kids about the Great [00:13:00] Lakes.

Speaker1: [00:13:00] Well, Nate, thanks for joining us.

Speaker2: [00:13:03] Thank you very much. Have a great day.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

New York Sea Grant Home *  NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Home

This website was developed with funding from the Environmental Protection Fund, in support of the Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act of 2006. 

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