Great Lakes Education Program celebrates its 25th year—don’t miss the boat

The Great Lakes Education Program begins its 25th year of advancing Great Lakes literacy among K-12 students throughout Southeast Michigan having introduced more than 100,000 participants to the unique wonders of the Great Lakes.

Ypsilanti New Tech High School climate-themed Great Lakes Education Program cruise on the Detroit River. Todd Marsee | Michigan Sea Grant

Ypsilanti New Tech High School climate-themed Great Lakes Education Program cruise on the Detroit River. Todd Marsee | Michigan Sea Grant

Since 1991, the Great Lakes Education Program has introduced more than 100,000 K-12 students, teachers and adult chaperones to the unique features of the Great Lakes through a combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience. The program is designed to stimulate interest in the Great Lakes and help students and adults understand their role in protecting these vital freshwater resources.  This year the program celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Winner of both the John A. Hannah Award for MSU Extension program excellence and a National 4-H Program of Distinction Award, the Great Lakes Education Program is seen as a leader in vessel-based education. The program was developed as a collaborative effort between Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a host of K-12 teachers and education specialists. It has served as a national model for implementing effective vessel-based education.  In 2001, Texas Sea Grant used the Great Lakes Education Program as the developmental model for its Floating Classroom Program.

The Great Lakes Education Program has documented program outcomes through university research and seasonal assessments. Michigan State University research conducted through the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife found a highly significant increase in Great Lakes knowledge on the part of students, and a significant increase in girls’ positive attitudes toward the Great Lakes. A second MSU study investigated ways to strengthen the program’s  education and ensure the sound development of similar programs in the Great Lakes region. And a third MSU study found participants effectively shared knowledge learned with family members and friends, and the parents of participants scored significantly higher on the Great Lakes behavior intentions scale than parents of non-participants.

Participation survey for Great Lakes Education ProgramAnnual seasonal evaluations of the program are conducted with teachers and adult chaperones who take part in the program. Teacher evaluations have shown that their participation results in a high incidence of increased Great Lakes subject matter used in the classroom. Teachers also report the curriculum provides excellent support for addressing Michigan’s Grade Level Content Expectations and Great Lakes Literacy principles. The 2014 teacher evaluations found that following GLEP participation:

  • 95 percent shared program information with other teachers
  • 92 percent felt a greater responsibility for the Great Lakes
  • 83 percent included more Great Lakes science content in their classroom
  • 33 percent visited the Great Lakes more often
  • 33 percent involved their students, or were involved themselves, in new Great Lakes stewardship activities

In 2014, student evaluations were done in Wayne and Macomb counties and analyzed by the Michigan 4-H Youth Development office. Results showed that following program participation, among students surveyed:

  • 93 percent either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I feel more knowledgeable about Great Lakes science.
  • 88 percent agreed or strongly agreed that, “I like science.”
  • 83 percent agreed or strongly agreed that, “I am good at science.
  • 41 percent agreed or strongly agreed that, “I would like to have a job related to science.”
  • 54 percent agreed or strongly agreed that, “I do science activities that are not for school.” 

The 2015 Great Lakes Education Program begins its 25th year in April, and classes can still register for both our Lake St. Clair and lower Detroit River locations.  To register your class or obtain more information, visit the Great Lakes Education Program website. Be sure to check out other opportunities MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant offer to learn more about our Great Lakes, such as our Summer Discovery Cruises and 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp.

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