Year-Round Programming Coming to ISEA

Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) will be building and piloting year-round programming for its Suttons Bay campus over the next five years. Their 2021-2025 strategic plan was built upon lessons learned through 30+ years of successful Schoolship programming and the investment made in the recently renovated building and campus.

Schoolship and Beyond is the strategic focus for ISEA in 2021-2025. “It’s important that people understand we are not abandoning the Schoolship program,” said Fred Sitkins, ISEA Executive Director. Their flagship Schoolship program, begun by Tom Kelly in 1989, serves 4,000 youth each year with hands-on learning about the Great Lakes ecosystem and why it is important for us to care for it. Sitkins added, “Over the years, we have continued to seek and meet the needs of K-12 teachers by adapting our Schoolship programs. These year-round programs are another way to meet their needs.”

The broad range of year-round programs will serve the various ISEA audiences with an emphasis on K-12 schools. ISEA school programs align to the Michigan Science Standards that teachers must teach. New programs will broaden the scope and depth of the ISEA mission by expanding their Great Lakes stewardship education programs from six to twelve months.

Strategic goals for 2021-2025 include increasing diverse programming aboard the schooner Inland Seas, and delivering year-round STEM-based educational programs shoreside. Within these goals, ISEA hopes to increase the number of historically underrepresented students working in fields related to the stewardship of the Great Lakes; strengthen college and university collaboration; and build on Great Lakes related state and federal agency collaboration.

The Gerstacker Foundation and Great Lakes Fisheries Trust have invested in the implementation of ISEA’s strategic goals by awarding grants for year-round program development, pilots, promotion, and scholarships for schools. Troy DeShano, ISEA Fund Development Coordinator said, “We are thankful that our long-time funders have confidence in us and are willing to invest in diversifying our work year-round.” ISEA continues to seek additional support for the expansion of their programming to all audiences. Interested parties can contact Troy DeShano at

To accomplish their year-round programming goals, ISEA will need to increase their volunteer base. “Throughout the next five years, we will be seeking ways to connect with new volunteers for the roles created by the new programming, training our volunteers so they can deliver the new programs, and building community through activities and events,” shared Juliana Lisuk, ISEA Volunteer Coordinator. Individuals interested in learning more can contact Juliana at

The organization’s previous 5-year strategic goals focused on organizational sustainability. ISEA achieved the goals through the support of their committed and generous donors and volunteers. Over the past five years they doubled annual total revenue and net assets, paid off all long-term debt, completed a campus-wide renovation, and expanded organizational partnerships. Additionally, the number and variety of programs offered, the number of participants, and the number of volunteer hours all increased.

Inland Seas Education Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Suttons Bay, Michigan, dedicated to STEM education on the Great Lakes. Its shipboard and shore-side education programs are designed to inspire people of all ages to provide for the long-term stewardship of the Great Lakes. ISEA offers programs to schools, groups, and the public. For further information, contact Inland Seas Education Association at (231) 271-3077 or on the web at