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Houghton teacher gives update on new class

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Isaac Rodriguez and Michael Williams of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service talk to students from Sarah Geborkoff’s environmental science class about lamprey control on Sept. 9. The activity was one of several outings the class has done in its first semester.

By GARRETT NEESE

Houghton Daily

Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON — Sarah Geborkoff is only three days ahead on lesson plans for her first environmental science class, she said Monday. However, a quarter of the way through the year, the Houghton High School teacher is excited by how things have fallen into place.

“The more people I get from the community, and the more I get my students out, the better,” she said.

Geborkoff told the Houghton-Portage Township Schools Board about the new class, as well as a summer workshop she took through NASA.

Students have partnered with Ken Klein’s fourth-grade class at Houghton Elementary School on two events. First, they worked at Boston Pond in a Michigan Nature Association-funded activity. They sowed native plants and removed invasives. Jill Fisher of Keweenaw Land Trust also taught them about the area’s ecology.

Next, the elementary students will come to the middle school to learn about birds and make bird feeders.

“Seeing my kids interact with these younger kids, I’m learning a lot more about my students,” Geborkoff said.

In another activity, students met with a team from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the Pilgrim River. They learned about the impact of flooding as well as the efforts to eliminate invasive lampreys, while maintaining the native population.

“It was fascinating for my students to see how they electroshock them out of the water, identify them, release them, take a population count,” Geborkoff said.

On the Tech Trails, the class worked with Keweenaw Invasive Species Management Area to plant trees and learn about the hazards posed by the emerald ash borer.

Students come with a variety of interests, Geborkoff said. Some want to pursue a career in logging or with the Department of Natural Resources. Others are coming over from Advanced Placement classes in chemistry or biology.

“To do a class that appeals to all the students is definitely a challenge, but I’m getting a lot of positive feedback,” she said.

Students are also excited about pitching in with the school’s pollinator garden. Students are learning horticulture skills and planted some fall bulbs.

Three seniors volunteered time on a Friday after school a few weeks ago to till the garden, Geborkoff said.

This spring, the class will work with fourth-graders to do soil testing, experimentation and using grow lights.