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May brings warmer weather, and that means another season on the water for the Suttons Bay-based Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA).

With a mission of “helping people of all ages experience the science and spirit of the Great Lakes through shipboard and on-shore educational programs,” the ISEA annually hosts teachers and students representing over 120 classrooms from across Michigan.

“Our goal is to foster and nurture Great Lakes curiosity, stewardship and passion,” says Fred Sitkins, ISEA executive director. “We follow the Jacque Cousteau model that people protect what they love, and we try to instill that emotion in all our programs.”

The signature shipboard classes are generally a half day on the 77’ schooner, Inland Seas or the 114’ Manitou. The focus is on science, including such activities as collecting and analyzing fish, plankton and organisms that live on the lake bottom. Students also learn some sailing basics by helping hoist anchors and raise sails. New this year is an underwater, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) program “to increase STEM options and encourage young people in STEM careers,” Sitkins says.

Sitkins and his team are also proud of shipboard programs designed for special needs students. “We have several different options, including classes for autistic students, blind students, wheelchair bound students and others.”

This year also marks two significant ISEA expansions. New overnight dormitory space will accommodate classes coming from long distances as well as researchers working on Great Lakes-related studies.

And there is the addition of another 77’ schooner donated by the Wisconsin-based Peterson family. The Utopia was built in 1946 by Fred Peterson, head of Peterson Boat Works in Sturgeon Bay, who twice sailed it around the world in the early 50’s.

“We are very grateful to the Peterson family for this wonderful gift and to our many donors and volunteers without whom we could not do what we have done for the past 28 years.”

Greening of the Great Lakes airs every Sunday evening at 7:00 on News/Talk 760 WJR and Sunday afternoons at 4:00 inside MSU Today on 94.5 FM and AM 870 WKAR.

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