MARQUETTE - A group of 50 kids took to the water last week, participating in the 13th annual Life of Lake Superior youth program.
The program is run by the Michigan State University Extension and takes place throughout the summer. It consists of four day-long programs that are meant to show young people different career opportunities offered by Lake Superior as well as the history and culture of the area.
Wednesday, the kids spent their morning on the Isle Royale Queen III, motoring around Marquette's upper and lower harbors while taking 20-minute classes on four different fields related to the water.
From left, Phoenix Wasik of Marquette helps Ron Kinnunen, an educator with the Michigan Sea Grant program, take a water sample from Lake Superior. Kinnunen was one of eight instructors who took part in the Michigan State University Extension’s “Life of Lake Superior” program. (Journal photos by Jackie Stark)
They rotated between a class on fish anatomy taught by a Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, a class on micro-organisms living in the water taught by a Michigan Sea Grant educator, a class on weather patterns taught by National Weather Station in Negaunee meteorologists and received a tour of the ship's pilothouse by the captain himself.
Joan Vinette, an extension educator who helps organize the summer program, said each class is taught by working professionals to help kids see the real people actually working out in the field.
"Kids don't always think about it," Vinette said. "If you don't get to meet somebody that's doing a particular career or work in a field, you don't know that field exists."
Molly Carmody, who owns and manages the Isle Royale Queen III, said taking the students out on the boat was a unique opportunity she was happy to be a part of.
"Not only is it hands on, with the microscope and the fish in front of you, but it's on a boat on the water, which is where all these professionals work," Carmody said. "Their office is on the water, so they get to see, it's not just science. If kinds have any kind of contact with the water, they see working on the water as making a living and contributing to the field of science."
Vinette said every presenter shares how they got into their particular field and how the kids can begin preparing themselves for that first job in their young careers, along with an educational session on what their work entails.
Showing young kids how to make a living on the shores or on the waters of Lake Superior is one of the main missions of the program Vinette said, adding that helping encourage a love for the place they live is vital in that quest.
"That's part of the economics of it," Vinette said. "Our area will thrive if youth is involved, or, if youth go away and come back but bring new skills back. They still have their love of their home. It's place-making - valuing the place that you're at, where your roots are, and understanding it."
To help the kids understand the communities along the Great Lakes, the program also offers sessions on culture and history, showing students the mining roots of many Upper Peninsula towns, and the culture and heritage of those early settlers.
Today, the kids are participating in the last day-long class of the summer by learning about two Munising waterfalls and hosting a forum on mining.
Every year, the program is free and open to any child from 9 to 14 (grades three through eight). Parents or grandparents are also welcome to attend.
For those who cannot provide their own transportation, a busing system has been established, with specific drop points in each town for parents or guardians to drop their kids off and pick them up at the end of the day.
A free lunch is also provided to each participant, along with a short class on the importance of nutrition.
For more information, call Vinette at 387-2530.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.