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Science Lab Upgrades on Horizon for ISEA

The David Garber Great Lakes Science Lab at Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) will be receiving a facelift thanks to recent grants from the Consumers Energy Foundation and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The upgrades to the lab are a fundamental component for ISEA in moving to year-round programming.

The $25,000 from the Consumers Energy Foundation and $5,000 from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians will go toward the $50,000 needed to outfit the laboratory with new equipment, furniture, and supplies. Equipment included in this project are HD microscope cameras and a professional-grade remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the same equipment used by research scientists. Upgrades to existing storage, cabinetry and workstations will be designed to facilitate inquiry-based group learning. Hands-on supplies and tools for soldering stations, document cameras, digital displays, and ROV assembly will provide STEM exercises to ignite a spark for future scientific careers. Also included in the upgrades will be safety equipment like a fume extrator, helping hand, and eye wash stations.

The goal of the upgrades is to increase the depth of impactful learning at ISEA. Fred Sitkins, ISEA Executive Director, shared, “This investment falls directly in line with our 5-year strategic plan to expand our shipboard programs and deliver quality learning opportunities to K-12 students year-round.” A fully outfitted state-of-the-art laboratory will provide essential hands-on opportunities for students to not only learn about science, but to practice it themselves. The organization is still seeking grants to fully outfit the lab.

Funders like the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust and The Gerstacker Foundation already have made grants dedicated to implementing the year-round programs that will make the most use of the lab right from the start. “These expanded year-round STEM programs will capitalize on our wealth of experience to guide participants through an environmental education continuum that leads from awareness to action. As students engage with robotics, microbiology, electronics, data collection and analysis, they not only discover a spark of curiosity for futures in STEM careers, but they develop a true, meaningful, personal connection to the natural world that leads to passion that drives positive actions,” explained Troy DeShano, ISEA Fund Development Coordinator.

In addition to lab upgrades, ISEA received a $15,000 grant from the Oleson Foundation to update the Inland Seas Education Center Outdoor Classroom for four-season use. These upgrades include retractable shades, electricity to the space, and outdoor heaters for winter programming. The retractable shades will eliminate the discomfort of wind and rain that can often distract students from learning opportunities. Improvements to this space will convert what is currently a pavilion into an enclosed learning space.