Initiative News & Calendar
November 17, 2017
Houghton Middle School wins Lexus Eco Challenge again
HOUGHTON HOUGHTON For the third time, Houghton Middle School students have won the Lexus Eco Challenge in the Land a ... >>more
November 16, 2017
Local educators present at Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative's Place Based Education Conference
The Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) Place Based Education Conference took place at Eastern Michigan Universi ... >>more
October 26, 2017
Students spend day learning at Lake Superior Water Festival
HOUGHTON High school students from five Upper Peninsula counties learned more about the Great Lakes and the research b ... >>more


News & Announcements
Stewards of tomorrow: Teaching kids about the Big Lake
Stewards of tomorrow: Teaching kids about the Big Lake

Kelly Fosness (
The Daily Mining Gazette ~ May 10, 2011

HOUGHTON -- Jake Westphal and his team of peers from Dollar Bay High School are counting down the days until they can put their Remotely-Operated Vehicles to the test on Isle Royale National Park. "They're going to be looking for zebra mussels," the junior student explained of his team's underwater robotics project during the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative Celebration in the Forestry Building at Michigan Technological University Monday evening. "Our group is going to be going out there to train the park rangers that will be driving them throughout the summer."
Dollar Bay High School was one of 14 school community teams to display their stewardship projects Monday evening in the atrium of the Forestry Building. Several hundred visitors turned out for the two-hour celebration which included group presentations of elementary, middle and high school projects in Hesterberg Hall.

Shawn Oppliger, project manager and school coordinator for the Copper Country Intermediate School District and Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Math and Environmental Education, said they've been involved with the LSSI since 2008 and originally started out with eight school community teams. Currently, they're up to 14 teams from Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties.

"A school community team is a team of teachers, students and their community partners," Oppliger said. "They come together as a team to design and implement a stewardship project to address some type of environmental stewardship need in their community."

The students are an integral part of that. Oppliger said, because they determine what they need, what they want to address and how they want to design the project and carry it out.

The teachers are instrumental in guiding the students towards discovering what those needs are, she added.
Fourteen teams were involved in the LSSI, comprised of 2,336 students, 79 teachers and 48 community partners.
Oppliger said the LSSI is part of the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative launched by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust with financial support from the Wege Foundation and several community foundations.

The goal of GLSI and LSSI is to increase understanding and active stewardship of the Great Lakes by K-12 teachers and students working in partnership with community organizations and local units of government. The LSSI prepares K-12 students to become knowledgeable citizens engaged in activities that enhance their school, community and the Lake Superior watershed.

Among some of the team projects on display Monday were BRIDGE Alternative High School's Stormwater Runoff and Rain Garden, C-L-K Elementary's Heritage Garden, Hancock Middle School's Paavola Wetlands Partnership and Jeffers High School's Lake Perrault Interpretive Trail and Outdoor Education.

During presentations students shared what they learned during the course of their projects, what they thought was fun, their favorite part and if they had any new experiences while being involved.

Westphal said his team was involved in researching local waters using ROVs. He said they were coordinating with a representative from IRNP to construct durable ROVs to assist in deterring zebra mussels from settling in the park.
"They want to try to monitor and basically eliminate that problem and so (IRNP) asked us to create an ROV that will let them do that over the summer," said Matt Zimmer, who teaches math and science at Dollar Bay High School. "Part of what Isle Royale wanted us to do is to come and train their rangers on how to use their device so they're giving us the ride out to the island. What's nice for the students is they'll get feedback."

Zimmer said their project derived from one of their new trimester courses, marine robotics.

Outside the Forestry Building, Dollar Bay students were demonstrating how their underwater ROV operated. While it appeared extremely high-tech, Zimmer said they started with a simple switch and worked their way into something more complicated.

"They set their own goals, so they decided to use a Nintendo controller to control their ROV," he said. "Then I provide the means and some of the tools they'll need to get there."

Zimmer said the students were responsible for learning how to program it, how to control it, and how to best use power. With a limited power resource on the island, Zimmer said power management was key.

"So it's more than just science," he said. "A lot of your physics principles and water resources are all tied into one class."

Assisting the team with the technical side of the robotics was recent Michigan Tech graduate Frank Arce, a mechanical engineering technology major.

"I've been working with them since the fall and I really enjoyed the enthusiasm the kids had for the project," he said. "I don't think I've ever seen students who were so enthused to be in class, and students who voluntarily wanted to come in after school to continue working on a project."

Oppliger said LSSI students benefit by becoming aware of how their community works.

"They start to become citizens within their school and they actively become involved in their community instead of waiting until they graduate," she said. "On top of that, they're learning a lot about the Great Lakes watershed."
Additionally, she said when they become stewards of a particular area, they're less likely to trash it.
"They become models for stewardship in their community," Oppliger said. "They're a lot more powerful spokespeople than adults because when kids speak up about this, people are more willing to listen."

E.B. Holman fifth-grade student Addy Huuji said her team has been conducting plot studies to compare two sites: the Marsin Preserve, owned by Keweenaw Land Trust, and the Stanton Township Forest. Forests, birds, salamanders and water quality were inventoried and monitored.
"We couldn't find any salamanders yet but we have a lot of different birds that come to our feeders that are at our school outside of our classroom window," she said. "We're learning different species of birds."

Her teammate, and cousin, Claire Huuki, said she enjoyed the project because they got to do things outside the classroom.

"You don't have to stay inside the whole time," she said. "You get to go outside and have fun."

Schools participating in the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative are: Calument, Laurium & Keweenaw Elementary, C.J. Sullivan Elementary, Lake Linden-Hubbell Elementary, Pelkie Elementary, E.B. Holman School, Hancock Middle School, Lake Linden-Hubbell Middle School, Washington Middle School, BRIDGE Alternative High School, Chassell High School, Dollar Bay-Tamarack City High School, Hancock high School, Horizons Alternative High School and Jeffers High School.

For more information about LSSI and a complete list of projects, visit:

809 Hecla Street | Hancock, Michigan 49930 | 906.482.0331 |