Kennedy Elementary School students take Inland Seas adventure trip

Students from Kennedy Elementary School work on experiments aboard the Inland Seas educational ships based in Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

Students from Kennedy Elementary School work on experiments aboard the Inland Seas educational ships based in Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

MANISTEE — Schools located in northern Michigan enjoy the unique opportunity to virtually have an outdoor science classroom located right in their own backyard.

When the fifth grade students at Kennedy Elementary School wanted to expand their science horizons they looked to Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) located in Traverse City. The ISEA is a non profit organization designed to help people of all ages experience the science and spirit of the Great Lakes. They accomplish it through hands-on learning activities aboard a traditionally rigged tall ship schooner.

“We took 150 fifth grade students on the trip where we did science experiments and learned about the conservation of our waters and ecosystems,” said Kennedy Elementary teacher Connie Josvai.  “So it was great to take the kids out of the classrooms and onto the ship to do hands on experiments in dealing with the aquatic ecosystems.”

With budgets being so tight in schools, Josvai applied for a scholarship their the Inland Seas. School officials later found out that their sponsor was the Manistee Paine Foundation, who paid for their admission on the ship.

“The ISEA was established in 1989 to provide aquatic science, environmental awareness and sail training classes for learners of all ages,” she said. “Classes are conducted aboard tall ships to compliment traditional classroom studies in ecology, history, geography, geology, biology, chemistry and meteorology. Students learn through hands on experiences.”

Over 94,000 students have already participated in ISEA’s shipboard programs, which are taught by 120 volunteer instructors and ISEA’s professional staff. Members and friends support ISEA’s mission of Great Lakes education with financial contributions and by volunteering as instructors, organizers, fund-raisers and office helpers.

Josvai said that despite the unusually cold spring this part of Michigan has experienced this year, there was good enough weather to go on on the schooners. It still was extremely cold on the waters of Grand Traverse Bay and Suttons Bay.

“We had great weather and it is up to the captains to decide if we sail or not and all, but one of the six classes were able to get out on the water,” she said. “Even though they couldn’t go out on the water, they still were able to do experiments out in the education center.”

Josvai said the experience was priceless.

“To actually be out there in the environment and to see what it is all about and to be able to understand it all is something you just can’t do in the classroom,” she said. “Part of the students went out in Traverse City and the other part went out in Suttons Bay, so it was fun to see the comparisons between the two areas.”

Fifth grade students, like Nathaniel Breland, said they found the trip to be very informative.

“My favorite part was learning about plankton,” he said.”If the plankton were gone all the fish would be gone as well because they rely on it to survive.”

Josvai said that they went out on Suttons Bay there was still ice in the bay and the winds were brisk. It was something that added to the challenge of the trip.

As the students gathered their data they had to record it in data books. At the end of the trip, they had to report the results to the instructor on board so it could be passed on to the weather service, the Coast Guard and the fisheries industry.

“This is actually the sixth year my classes have done it,” said Josvai. “In the past two years the entire fifth grade has done it. Even though we had a sponsorship for the trip, the kids actually do fundraising. However, it is a wonderful opportunity to get kids excited about science, and I want them to continue to do it and be stewards of our water.”

Fifth grade student Teagan Johnson said she like putting up the sails.

“I liked setting the sails because it was hard to pull them up,” she said. “I also liked steering the ship and there were two people that did it at a time.”

Student Shayde Lijewski had a different tale to tell of her time on the tall ship.

“I didn’t get to enjoy much of the trip because I got seasick and had to sleep,” she said.

Josvai said for several of the students the trip was the first time they had went out on the water.

Students Brock Baldwin, Oscar Reynacruz, Declan McCann and Cayley Nelson said catching the fish off the boat so they could study them was their favorite part of the trip. They both have been on bots before, but not that large.

“We were able to catch bluegills and pull up some plankton to study them,” said Nelson.

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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