Lake Michigan Water Quality Field Trip

Living near Lake Michigan we were lucky to participate in a field trip aboard a research vessel to test the water quality of both the big lake and a smaller inland lake. Aboard the vessel, the kids learned about invasive species, local sand mining, salmon stocking of the lakes, dredging and had the opportunity to perform several different tests to examine the water. This was hands-on science at its best!

The children were divided into two groups. One group met on the deck and gathered water from both the top and bottom of the lake. They also examined the water to determine clarity, measured temperature and collect soil/sand samples from the bottom of the lake. The group inside the cabin tested the samples for oxygen content, conductivity, turbidity and looked at the samples under a microscope.

He determined clarity using a test tube with a secchi disk at the bottom. A secchi disk is a circle divided into four quadrants, two black and two white. Water was poured into the tube until the disk is no longer visible. The height of the water in the tube was then recorded.

 The temperature of the lake was recorded on the chart.

Sediment from the bottom of the lake was collected in this scoop.

 Inside the cabin, the kids tested top and bottom lake samples for oxygen content.

 Turbidity data was recorded on a chart.

 pH of the top and bottom samples was tested at this station.

 The sample collected in this cup was used to create slides examined under the microscope.

 The microscope camera was visible on the screen so many people could view the sample simultaneously.

 A poster enabled the kids to compare zooplankton visible on the screen with known species for identification.

A summary of the final data was prepared.

This one-of-a-kind field trip was well worth it. Kids learn so much by doing and sometimes we need to remember to step away from the books and investigate.


  1. Wow! Way to find a terrific hands-on experiment! You won't find many field trips like this :) Thanks for sharing such an inspirational idea for the Homeschool moms at Together on Tuesdays!

  2. So neat! We went on a similar field trip testing the waters of Long Island Sound. I just loved it; such a unique experience.

  3. What a neat experience! Thanks for sharing at FTF!


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