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Charter a Bus for a Hands-On Educational Experience with the Inland Seas Education Association

Posted by Guest Blogger
Aug 19, 2019 1:26:32 PM


People protect what they love, they love what they understand and they understand what they are taught.” Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Protecting the Great Lakes through education is a focus of Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA). ( Through educational opportunities with ISEA, individuals develop a personal relationship with the Great Lakes. Inland Seas inspires people to be curious about the Great Lakes and encourages them to steward this awesome resource. Their hands-on programming takes place aboard tall ship vessels, along the shore, and in the Capt. Thomas M. Kelly Biological Station in Suttons Bay, MI. 

Participants-engaging-in-Great-Lakes-science-Credit-ISEA_WEBDuring the summer months, ISEA provides programming for the public ( that includes multi-day programs, charters, science sails, and specialty sails. Public science sails include the popular three-hour Great Lakes Discovery Sail and two-hour focused programs like Fishes of Lake Michigan and Steady the Ship. Participants in these programs engage in hands-on science. Personal relationships with the Great Lakes can also be developed on specialty sails such as Night Sky Gazing, Breakfast, and Fall Color sails.

“All of our programs encourage our guests to participate in the science and sailing,” says Fred Sitkins, ISEA’s Executive Director. “People of all ages love raising the sails on our 77’ schooner Inland Seas.” Participants can also steer the ship, assist in collecting lake samples, and analyze what they collect. Learning about the health of the Great Lakes occurs through these engaging hands-on experiences. As people learn the importance of and the threats to the Great Lakes, they begin to understand why protection of them is so vital.

Capt.-Thomas-M.-Kelly-Biological-Station-Credit-ISEA_WEBEach year, various groups charter ISEA’s tall ships for a few hours to many days. Some groups utilize ISEA’s programming while others use the ship as a platform for their own programs. ISEA can create custom science and/or remotely operated vehicle (ROV) programs for groups. Beginning summer 2019, groups who participate in ISEA programs can also stay at the Capt. Thomas M. Kelly Biological Station ( The dormitory-style housing can accommodate up to 40 people. Participants who stay have access to the organization’s lakefront, outdoor classroom, fire pit, invasive species museum, and science laboratory. A variety of Leelanau County lakes and hiking trails, as well as the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, can be easily reached by groups staying at the facility. 


Also during the summer of 2019, ISEA will be participating in tall ship festivals in Cleveland, OH (July 5-7) and Green Bay, WI (July 26-29). Special festival science sails will be available in each port daily. Schedules are available on the 2019 Cleveland TALL SHIPSⓇ Festival website ( and the Nicolet Bank TALL SHIPSⓇ website (

In the spring and fall when school is in session, ISEA provides Great Lakes STEM+art field trip educational programs. ( During Schoolship programs, students become Great Lakes scientists for the day as they collect samples and analyze them. Their research continues as they compare their collected data to ISEA’s 30-year historical data. Students also become sailors as they participate in hoisting the anchor, raising the sails, and steering the ship.

Building-and-Testing-ROVs-Credit-ISEA_WEBMany classrooms also choose to add an ROV Engineer and Explore program. ( This hands-on experience provides students with the opportunity to build remotely operated vehicles and explore the careers that use them. 

Some schools also enjoy Beyond Schoolship programs, those that take place off the ships, such as Biking the TART Trail, Soil Science and Stream Monitoring at Leo Creek Preserve, and custom shore side programs. “In order for students to develop a passion for the lakes, they need to experience them,” noted Sitkins. “We offer a variety of programs, both on and off the ships that connect individuals to the Grand Traverse region and the Great Lakes.”

Through a variety of hands-on programming, Inland Seas Education Association teaches people of all ages about the health of the Great Lakes in hopes that through this understanding, they will love and protect them long into the future. More information about ISEA programming can be found at (


Author: Lisa Sitkins is a marketing consultant for Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay, MI.

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