O’LAKERS on the S/V Denis Sullivan

May 2008

Each of the Great Lakes states has COSEE funds for student activities related to lake/ocean science through a program called O’LAKERS [Ocean/Lake-Aware Kids Engaged in Relevant Science]. In mid-May two groups of Cleveland area students came with their classes to learn aboard the S/V Denis Sullivan, Wisconsin’s flagship and teaching vessel for Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin. The Sullivan stopped over on its way upbound [inland from the sea] from winter education programs in Florida.

Bright and early on May 14, 4th and 6th grade students from Empire CompuTech school in Cleveland and headed for the Sullivan. At 8:30 they began their "Dockside Discovery" program with an exploration of the parts of the ship above and below deck. Dividing into teams, they delved into the science, geography, and navigation lessons of the day. While one group learned about Lake Erie water quality, another learned how charts and instruments help the ship get through the lakes. Everybody got to do all the stations as they rotated through the program, but the most exciting lessons were about knot tying and raising the staysail.

On May 15, 8th graders from South Euclid/Lyndhurst Schools came for a three-hour on-the-water LakeWatch Expedition. The 32 students got first hand experience with what the Sullivan’s crew faces as they carry out their navigation and science tasks while they sail on rough seas. This group raised sails too, and sailed with them! Students collected, recorded and analyzed data samples to deepen their understanding of the interrelationships between living and nonliving components of the Lake ecosystem.

A program like this with science, history, math and technology is an outstanding supplement to classroom lessons, bringing the Great Lakes alive through personal experience. Many thanks to the educators and crew of the Sullivan for their partnership in Great Lakes education! If you have an idea for engaging your own Great Lakes students in the science of the lakes, contact your state’s COSEE educator.