News from the Aurora University community

John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School students take virtual field trip to the bottom of Geneva Lake

Posted by on May 1, 2017

AURORA, Ill. — Seventh-grade students at the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University last week took a “field trip” to explore shipwrecks at the bottom of Wisconsin’s Geneva Lake – all without leaving their classroom or even getting wet.

Thanks to video conferencing technology, the 33 students were able to join counterparts from schools near the university’s George Williams College campus in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, to learn about underwater archeology and about some of that state’s more than 700 known shipwrecks.


Caitlin Zant, maritime archaeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society, talks to STEM School 7th graders about shipwrecks during virtual field trip.

The event featured Caitlin Zant, a maritime archaeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society, who spoke about her experiences exploring and documenting some of those wrecks, including two that she recently investigated in Geneva Lake.

Her presentation was just part of Lake Study Day, an interdisciplinary event held each spring at GWC, where university students draw upon their own studies and interests to teach area school children about Geneva Lake and its role as a natural, historical and recreational resource. The GWC campus is located on the 8-square-mile lake near the resort town of Lake Geneva.

According to science teacher Debbie Nelson, exposure to topics like underwater archaeology is important to students at the STEM school, one of whose goals is to make kids aware early of the variety of careers available that involve science and technology.

“It really helps them see why they are in school,” she said. “It helps them make a connection between what they are learning and what they can do with their life.”

She said that follow-up discussions will probe into some of the details covered during the presentation as well as the idea of maritime archaeology as a potential profession.

“We’ll also think about what other science-related professionals there may be whose jobs are necessary for an underwater archaeologist to do hers,” she said. “A big thing is just opening our minds to all the STEM careers and even non-STEM careers that are associated with that.”