By Steve Stewart

This fall, the Great Lakes Education Program (GLEP) will conclude its 26th year of classroom and vessel-based education in southeast Michigan. We usually think of the student participants and their teachers when we think of GLEP education, but approximately 15 percent of all participants are adult chaperones who accompany the class. In May and June, more than 200 adult chaperones joined us on the water as we conducted educational cruises on both Lake St. Clair/Clinton River and Lake Erie/Detroit River.

Each school group is divided into four sub-groups, as there are four learning stations on our schoolships. We encourage teachers to bring four chaperones per class. Chaperones serve the important role of sub-group leaders. As such they help the student groups move around the boat, record test results on our data sheets, and experience each learning station, too.

In 1999, a Michigan Sea Grant-funded research project found that GLEP chaperones had higher scores in both knowledge and positive behavioral intentions regarding the Great Lakes than did parents/guardians of students who did not serve as chaperones. So we know that it is not just the students who benefit from participation. But what did this spring’s chaperones think of the program? Following their GLEP education experience, chaperones are asked to complete an anonymous evaluation survey and 18 percent participated.

As is the case with teachers, one set of questions asked chaperones to assess individual learning activities conducted on the GLEP schoolship. Activities included conducting water chemistry tests, taking samples from the lake bottom, towing a plankton net, and using navigation charts. For most chaperones, this is the first time they’ve done these activities. They were asked to rate each learning activity on a 1 (poor) to 4 (excellent) scale.

The results? Activities received ratings ranging from 3.6 to 3.8. They also provided an overall program rating reflecting its educational value to students, and the average response was 3.9. Chaperones were also asked to compare their GLEP education experience with other experiential education opportunities. More than 57 percent rated it “Much Better” with another 34 percent rating it “Better.”


Chaperones were asked to rate each on-board learning activity on a 1 (poor) to 4 (excellent) scale. Activities received ratings ranging from 3.6 to 3.8.

Chaperones are always encouraged to share open-ended comments about the program as well. Among the comments received this spring were the following.

  • The kids in my group had a great time doing all the activities. I did as well. I grew up on a lake and I learned a lot on this trip.
  • This field trip was a true learning experience for all of us, plus it was fun. I really enjoyed being a chaperone for this trip!
  • This kind of hands-on learning is memorable, and impossible in a classroom.
  • I graduated from high school [in] 2013 but remember this trip from the 4th grade. I loved it then and I love it now, and I was excited to attend this year with my younger cousins!

Registration is now open for the fall 2016 Great Lakes Education Program season, which runs from early September through October. For more complete information on the program, the fall season calendar, our locations, cost, and how to register, simply go to the Great Lakes Education Program website.

Read more in this series:
Part 1: Great Lakes Education Program gets high marks from teachers