Leaving a Lasting Impact

By Mariah Cox | Summer 2019 Communication Intern

Jan Cornelison, a 5th-grade teacher at Mason of Grand Blanc Elementary School, sports an ISEA ‘my other classroom is the ship’ pin on her hat. Cornelison has been bringing her students aboard ISEA programs since its founding in 1989.

Mariah Cox, ISEA’s summer Marketing and Communications Intern, sailed aboard Schoolship programs this Spring to gather stories from teachers. She shares the lasting impact ISEA’s Schoolship programs have on the students who participate.

For many students, teachers, volunteers, full-time staff members, board members, interns, donors and more, Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) holds a special place in memories and hearts.

It comes as no surprise that the experiences made aboard the Schoolships Inland Seas and Manitou have helped to further learning outside of the classroom, provide hands-on teaching opportunities for interns and volunteers alike as well as foster a community grounded in stewardship for the Great Lakes.

Jan Cornelison, a 5th-grade teacher at Mason of Grand Blanc Elementary School, has been bringing her students aboard ISEA’s schooners ever since it opened its doors in 1989. While aboard a Next Gen-Seamanship sail Thursday, May 30, Cornelison reflected on first meeting Captain Thomas Kelly.

“I was up here in 1988 at a tall ship festival. I was standing on a dock next to my husband and another person standing next to me turned out to be Thomas Kelly,” Cornelison said. “I remember telling him that I would love to bring my class up here to sail. We eventually exchanged numbers and we started to come up with what could be done on the schooner.”

Of course, as the years have gone by, the ecology of the lake has changed significantly. When Cornelison first started bringing her students to Suttons Bay, there were no zebra or quagga mussels being pulled up on deck. She even remembers watching the increase in the zebra mussel population and then the decrease when quagga mussels began to take over. And then, little tiny pieces of plastic started showing up.

Cornelison keeps bringing her students back because she sees the value the hands-on educational experience has on her students’ current learning as well as their futures.

“At Mason, we have a senior walkthrough day where students can walk through the building and talk to all of their teachers throughout the years. I had 17 students come through my classroom and five of them instantly said ‘I remember the schooner and sailing’ and that was almost seven years ago for them,” Cornelison said. “Some of the students I spoke with on that day said they are going into studying natural water resources, ecology or biology and so this experience has definitely made a difference in these kids’ lives.”

On a separate sail Wednesday, May 29, parents and teachers alike spoke to their experiences with ISEA’s schooners.

“The ship is really hands-on. It gives them more of a real-world experience to do things that they are learning in class,” said Melissa Anderson, a parent chaperone with Ludington Area Catholic. “I’m really impressed with the number of stations that the kids have gotten to go to and the peer-teaching aspect. The kids are having fun, but they are also getting a good learning experience.”

Additionally, Leo Martinez, the teacher for the fifth and 6th-grade class, noticed an apparent attentiveness and interest in the day’s activities.

“Some of the kids are opening up more than I’ve seen in the classroom itself. It’s a great environment for them to experience and I feel like it’s really beneficial for them,” Martinez said. “Even if they don’t necessarily take any science away from it, it’s just the experience of actually being on the boat and being a part of a group effort to collect data and raise the sails.”

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