For many, the first things that come to mind when thinking about Michigan are the lakes that surround the state’s borders. The Great Lakes are Michigan’s most prominent natural features, and yet not many know about the invasive species that plague them.
The students in Peter Riemersma’s geology 105 class, however, are acquainted with the threat.
Riemersma’s “Living with the Great Lakes” course gathered 120 students in the multipurpose room in the Mary Idema Pew Library, showcasing their projects discussing the lakes’ invasive species. This was done in part to show that there are many different invasive species, but they also highlighted what is being done to fight against these different species.
At the beginning of the semester, Riemersma had the students read “Pandora’s Locks,” which dives deep into the invasive species of the Great Lakes. Afterward, he assigned a project to discuss a certain topic presented in the book in depth. After weeks of research, the students got to spend the day with their projects hanging up, presenting to each other and anyone else who walked through the showcase.
“Basically, all we do is pick a topic, and then we get the freedom to do whatever we want in order to present it to everyone,” said GEO 105 student Chloe Hernandez.
Once presentation day came around, each student sets up their station and then they all voted on which projects are the most educational and which one is the most creative.
“This helps students be able to communicate creatively and visually, which is a very important skill that a lot of people just can’t do,” Riemersma said.
Both Riemersma and his students enjoy this project because it reinforces their knowledge base and strays from typical final exams and papers.
“There is no way to effectively teach a science class with over a hundred students, and be able to take ten or fifteen minutes reading those papers, but this project gives students a chance to do what they want and it’s easier to grade,” Riemersma said.
Students feel the same about the project, and look forward to presenting them and getting a chance to show their work.
For example, Jackson Ingalls did a PowerPoint on sea lampreys and how they harm other fish that are natives of the great lakes.
“I got more out of this project than writing a paper,” Ingalls said. “Some people learn better from writing papers, but others learn more from doing projects like this, and this allows everyone to express themselves.”
Riemersma is just one of many members of faculty and staff here on campus who are trying to find the best ways for their students to learn, and he has found one that works. For anyone interested in learning more about invasive species and what can be done to help, visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency website for more information, or visit the geology department with any specific questions.