Water resources protection through education

The Great Lakes Education Program helps educate residents about Michigan’s abundant water resources.

Michigan is blessed with an abundance of quality surface water. There are more than 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams in the state. Michigan has 3,288 miles of Great Lakes coastline and there is no point in Michigan that is more than six miles from an inland lake or 85 miles from one of our five Great Lakes. Despite all of this, many Michiganders know very little about water quality, the Great Lakes or the importance of protecting this life giving resource.

Michigan State University Extension began educating K-12 students about these valuable resources in 1991 through the development of the Great Lakes Education Program or “GLEP” for short. Since then, over 85,000 students have participated in this award winning program.

This program provides students, teachers and adult chaperones with both classroom and hands-on field experiences to increase their knowledge and appreciation of our state’s water resources. This program is unique because it gives participants the opportunity to conduct a variety of the same water quality tests used by agencies and environmental organizations to determine water quality on a given day while cruising on one or more of these lakes or rivers. Pre-trip classroom sessions provide a review or introduction to key concepts such as food webs, the water cycle and direct water uses. On board the boat, in addition to conducting dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH tests, students study benthic samples from the bottom, complete weather observations, identify plankton and learn basic boating terminology. Post-cruise activities include discussions about the “why” of what they learned and how the different activities combine to give a complete picture of water quality.

GLEP will begin its 24th season this spring with programs on the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River. GLEP seasons run from April through June and September through October. Dates for the spring season are still available. Specials cruises for groups are available during the summer. In addition, MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant offer Summer Discovery Cruises for individuals, families and groups during the summer on Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie or the Detroit River.

To learn more about MSU Extension’s water education programs, visit www.glep.us, http://macombcountymi.gov/msuextension or www.discoverycruises.org.

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