A Volunteer Schoolship Instructor

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I am just finishing up Schoolship training for the upcoming 2014 season which will begin the first of May. It is good to refresh my memory since it has been since last October, when the Schoolship season ended, that I was immersed in Great Lakes Science. It brings to mind my first year going through the training that was held at the NMC’s Water Studies Institute in Traverse City, MI.

I first heard about the Schoolship program from a TV spot asking for volunteers to train to be Schoolship instructors. “Go to Schoolship.org for more information” The TV spot said. The goal of The Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA), that operates the Schoolship, is to protect the Great Lakes through education and on-board experiences.

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In the Fall of 2012, having just retired and wondering what I was going to do with all of this new found free time, I was curious and went to the web site. What I found really intrigued me. I could train to be an instructor at Inland Seas Education Center and sail aboard the Inland Seas or the Manitou. Both of these vessels are replicas of the two-masted schooners that sailed the Great Lakes back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The training consisted of 6 weekly sessions that covered all of the science we would need to know along with seamanship and a brief history of the Great Lakes and the schooners that sailed them.

Following the winter training sessions there was an all-day training session that was a “cram course” that included all 6 sessions and like the winter sessions, also included examples of each station. These 6 stations included water chemistry, benthos, plankton, fish, stewardship, and seamanship. Group sampling – weather and limnology was also included.

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The way the program worked, the groups that came aboard the Schoolship would learn about the science of sampling the Great Lakes ecosystem and also learn about sailing in a half day program. This is intended to teach and promote stewardship of the Great Lakes. Hopefully, those attending the program would leave there with a better understanding of the Great Lakes and would feel a responsibility to protect it.

This program was perfect for me since I love anything to do with the natural world and I have always enjoyed being on the water. The chance to be an instructor and to be a small part of something I really believe in gave me a new purpose.

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I have been a member of a lot of conservation organizations over the years but was never able to take an active part in promoting stewardship of our natural world. Maybe now I can help make a difference. Someone once said that when you really love something you will put forth extra effort to protect it. But to love something you first have to understand it; and to understand it you have to experience it. I can’t think of a better way for our young people, who will be the leaders of tomorrow, to experience it than on board the Schoolship.

Steward of Northern Michigan Cold Rivers and Great Lakes
Steward of Northern Michigan’s Cold Rivers and Great Lakes

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