B-WET is an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, experiential learning for K-12 school students and teachers. Through NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the Great Lakes B-WET program offers competitive grants, funded in part through GLRI funds, which promote “Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences” (MWEEs).  Goals of the program are to: support existing environmental education programs focused on the K-12 audience, foster growth of new watershed education programs, and encourage the development of partnerships among environmental education programs across the Great Lakes watershed.

Only, 12 proposals of the 40 submitted were awarded funding. Pennsylvania Sea Grant Great Lakes-Great Stewards was one of them. Both students and teachers will incorporate watershed stewardship practices in the classroom, out in the field and in the water, and in other arenas of education. Also awarded was a joint project between Ohio Sea Grant, Indiana/Illinois Sea Grant, New York Sea Grant and PASG.

Teachers from Pennsylvania and Ohio participated in a workshop on June 19-21 to learn more about Great Lakes and Lake Erie Literacy. MWEEs like kayaking on Lake Erie helped the teachers realize how important similar learning opportunities are for their students.

Below are some photos from the training and thoughts shared by Pennsylvania and Ohio teachers about the BWET program. 

P1160918 AIS with Helen Domske

AIS with NYSG Sr Extension Associate, Helen Domske

Raquel Therau, Union City High School, PA: “Each year I have my students do a project on “Great Lakes Grief” where they make a ‘wanted’ poster of some of the species invading the Great Lakes.  I was blown away by the details about Aquatic Invasive Species and some of the newer ones that Helen shared with us.  The fact that she had so many cool items to pass around so we could see them was awesome.  My immediate thought was, ‘I would love to have her come to speak to my classes!”

Ian Williams, North East Middle School, PA: “The most fascinating part of the first session was the discussion of the profound effect aquatic invasive species, AIS, are having on the Great Lakes.”


P1160967 Teachers load onto the Environaut

PASG Maritime Educator welcomes teachers aboard

Bonnie Sansenbaugher, East Palestine High School, OH: “My “Gee/Wow” moment for the first day was the visit to the Environaut Research Vessel.  This was a great learning tool made available to students that allows them to see firsthand the different components of water that is tested and monitored. Lisa Bircher and I have already made plans to take our students to Presque Isle and learn on the Environaut in the fall.  This will be the first time many of our students have seen Lake Erie and they can actually use some of the equipment we talk about in class in the setting that has real environmental application.”

Lisa Bircher, East Palestine High School, OH: “Bonnie and I both really enjoyed the science cruise on the Environaut today!  As a matter of fact, I am going to make a concerted effort to schedule one of these cruises for our students in the 2013-14 academic year (On Sept. 20, Bonnie and Lisa returned to the Environaut with their their students)  “to provide them with a MWEE that can help us establish interest and the need for our students to take part in waterhsed stewardship projects at home”


P1170052 collecting water samples aboard the Environaut

Collecting Lake Erie water samples for research

Margarita Dangle , Gannondale Youth Services, PA: Water quality testing with water from the bay on the Environaut on Wednesday and from the Millcreek on Thursday showed how you can have hands-on activities for students that ask them to identify, analyze, compare, consider the relationships of the parameters of water.  It is a great way to look beyond what is visible. This is a great concept for the residents to explore.

Ian Williams: I would really like to use the Environaut as one of my MWEE’s. It would fit perfectly into our ongoing stream study of 16 Mile Creek and our International Coastal Clean-Up to show the progression of pollution from the streams to the Lake Erie. I do many of the activities in my stream study like taking dissolved oxygen, water temperature, nitrates and Ph levels. We concentrate on mainly macroinvertbrates, but when we studied the micros on board the Environaut it showed me that there is even more happening that would give us another window into the health of our local water supply.


P1170068 Using microscopes on the Environaut

Teachers examine lake water samples for algae

Laurie Hinkle, Brunswick High School, OH:The experience on the Research Vessel was a real treat.  Out on the Lake water quality sampling is the same as it is in our local creek.  We gather the same data but on the Environaut we used just a couple of different tools. While I knew what it was I had never used a secchi disc before, and at school we do not use algae as an environmental indicator.  I am definitely going to incorporate the algae sampling into my water quality testing this year.  Seeing all of those cool algae types under the microscope is amazing, and it is fun to try to identify them!  Algae are discussed in almost every chapter I teach and it is often hard to really impress on students its importance.  I think this activity might actually help students get excited about algae!”

Nora McDevitt, Volney Rogers School, OH: “We had stations so each of the groups could do chemical, biological, and water tests.  These are what we do in our creek studies too.  I never thought we could do these in the larger waters of Lake Erie Nora McDevitt’s pictures are at the following link:


P1170181 Doreen explains watershed game

Doreen Petri explains the watershed game to teachers


Katherine Hall, Iroquois Elementary, PA:

The watershed map game is a great tool for leading students into discussion.  I hope to use some of these ideas and have students come up with a map as useful as the one Doreen’s students devised.

Laura McIntire, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, PA: “I would also like to work on creating the canvas floor watershed activity with Doreen Petri.  This could be used year after year with my students.”




P1170219 Removing invasive plants on PISP

Teachers remove invasive plants on Presque Isle

Nancy Moon McKinley Elementary, OH: “We talked in class about some of the lake Erie invasives, but not about any invasive species in our local area.  I am now looking into helping out at our local park to get rid of some invasives like we did on Presque Isle.  Our time together has refreshed a think locally attitude in me.”

Lisa Bircher, East Palestine High School, OH: “My favorite activity today was the “Weed Warrior” program.  I really enjoyed getting out there and getting my hands dirty.  I know this is not everyone’s “cup of tea” but I love feeling like I am really making a difference  and that it is not simply an academic exercise.  I know some of my students would also enjoy working in this way.  I would like remove garlic mustard in the outdoor area at our school. I look forward to my students seeing and participating in this process.”

P1170270 Weed Warriors

PA Sea Grant and Ohio Sea Grant BWET ‘Weed Warriors’


Ian Williams, North East Middle School, PA: “I guess I have read about invasive plants but never paid much attention to it. I was thrilled to know that “Weed Warriors” are actively trying to curb this problem. This is one thing I would like to explore as a stewardship idea by helping to remove some invasive species in our part of the county.”

Laura Hinkle, Brunswick High School, OH: “I really got into our service learning project in the woods.  I could have spent all afternoon working on that one!”



P1170287 Collecting water sample on Millcreek

Teachers collect water samples on Mill Creek


Rebecca Turner, Fairview High School, PA: I feel it is critical to incorporate local information, i.e. the Great Lakes Watershed, in as much as possible in the classroom.  This workshop gave me a lot of ways to do that.  It also gave me ideas for field experiences, speakers, and stewardship projects for my students.  To the leaders, thank you very much for a fantastic three days!






P1170355 testing for triclosan

Teachers test Mill Creek water samples

Mary Meade, East High School, PA: I plan to use Great Lake’s material in all my classes because the students need to experience and learn more about the unique natural resource in their “backyard”. We collected water samples from Mill Creek and took them to Mercyhurst College where  we did several tests on our water sample – in a real lab!  It was great to do some real testing. Using the micro pipette, someone said, “don’t double dip the tip”.  I HAVE to use that statement in class.

Nancy Moon McKinley Elementary, OH: “Using that equipment gave me that “hey I am a scientist” feeling that I hope that my kids at school get in my room.”



P1170389 learning about shoreline erosion in Ohio

BWET teachers examine Lake Erie coastal erosion


Ian Williams, North East Middle School, PA: “The erosion tour in the Painesville area was another great MWEE. I think living on the lake shore like we do and having miles of sheer cliffs it is important for us and our students to understand the shoreline. The satellite photos of the 50-plus years of erosion truly hit home the power of erosion. I enjoyed our walk to the edge where they put the wall there to stop the park from sliding in the lake. I also took pleasure in seeing how, at the site of the former chemical plant, they graded the cliff so it wouldn’t erode in the lake. I feel I can use many of the different coastal regions in the Erie County, PA area that offer beach areas and cliff areas to demonstrate the effect of coastline erosion.”


P1170454 ready for takeoff

BWET teachers get ready for Lake Erie kayak tour

Main Office: Tom Ridge Environmental Center 301 Peninsula Dr., Suite 3 Erie, PA 16505 814-217-9011