GTPulse: Five Educational and Fun Sails To Take This Year


What does stewardship mean when it comes to the Great Lakes?

“For Inland Seas, it’s protecting the Great Lakes through education. Whether that’s educating students as a school group or individuals through public programs, we really focus on stewardship for the longterm of the Great Lakes,” said Inland Seas Marketing Consultant Lisa Sitkins.

It’s important and appreciated for visitors to treat the Great Lakes with respect, but for those who live here, there’s an extra sense of duty to look after them. Inland Seas Education Association has made it part of its mission to help educate the people of Northern Michigan and beyond on the intricacies of stewardship through their different Schoolship programs.

The Suttons Bay-based nonprofit has been inspiring wonder and passion for the Great Lakes since 1989. Their approach to education is unique and hands-on. Folks of all ages get on a schooner ship and head out into wetlands, rivers, streams, and of course, the Great Lakes to learn about the science behind the water and its inhabitants.

Schooner ships gained early popularity in North America at the end of the18th century for fishing and trade before becoming commonly used all over the world. They don’t require as large a crew as square-rigged ships and are more easily maneuvered with changing winds. Schooners were designed to handle coastal sailing well, which is why they’re the preferred ship and classroom of Inland Seas Education.

“People get to look at plankton under the microscope, foraged fish that are at the bottom of the food chain, the water quality. And they talk about how that science ties into the health of the Great Lakes.”

Scholarship programs are offered May through mid-June in the spring, late June through August for the summer, and September through mid-October for the fall. Each different class runs anywhere from two to three hours and offers participants the opportunity to learn more about what affects the health of the Great Lakes.


Great Lakes Discovery:

A general overview of the curiosities of the Great Lakes. Using specialized equipment, participants will collect various organisms from the bottom of the lake and analyze the health of what they find. Participants will also learn a thing or two about hoisting sails, steering the ship, and raising the anchor.


What’s in the Great Lakes Food Web?:

This is a fan favorite, according to Lisa. Folks really feel like they can learn how to make a difference with this two-hour course that demonstrates some of the ways that Great Lakes wildlife has changed over the years due to invasive species. Microplastic, fish and plankton samples are taken from the bay for an examination into how they differ now from water creatures of years past.


Fishes of Lake Michigan:

If you don’t fish, you might not know what kind of fish we have in the Great Lakes. Learn how researchers collect and identify local fish in this two-hour program. You’ll help keep track of what kind of fish are caught and found during the trip, be able to ask in-depth questions about the fish and learn some sailing techniques too.


Great Lakes Under the Microscope:

Once you’re versed in what kind of fish we have here, dive deeper by discovering what they eat. In two hours you’ll learn all about the insects and microorganisms that keep the fish alive. Observe them up close under a microscope throughout the two-hour program.


Steady the Ship:

If you’re really interested in the sailing aspect of class, check out this fun and historical course. This class goes over all of the basics, as well as some more interesting history of Great Lakes sailing. Hear stories of transportation and trade, while learning how to hoist a sail and steer the ship!


Getting out on the water when it’s warm is what’s making me smile during these dreary winter afternoons. Set aside something to look forward to with a Schoolship sail, and don’t wait too long, classes fill up quickly. For more information on how to book your sail, head to


Don’t miss stories like these, join the newsletter community.

Categories: GTPulse