A group of Onekama High
School students recently took to the seas.
Each school year since 1993,
Onekama High School science students, under the supervision
of their teacher Jim Hunter, take samples from three
dedicated sites in Portage Lake. The study is quite
literally supported by the school’s administration; it takes
place aboard the fishing boat of Onekama Superintendent
Kevin Hughes and he serves as the captain of the student
crew for the study each year.
The purpose of the Portage
Lake Water Study is to produce and update a report on the
condition of Portage Lake as a continuation of a lake study
conducted by the Snell Environmental Group on behalf of the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Village of
Onekama. The study is centered around six measurements that
students collect and test: dissolved oxygen levels, total
phosphorus, chlorophyll-a, pH, clarity, and the temperature
Onekama High School student
Emily Barnard explained the value of the students’ efforts.
"I believe it is very important to know the condition of our
lake and whether or not it is changing,” says Barnard. “It
is also very important if there is any change to know what
the factors are causing the change and their impacts on
The lake is tested twice a year, in the fall and spring.
More than 300 students have participated in the testing of
the waters of Portage Lake for this project over the past 17
years. However, the scope of individuals impacted by this
project is far greater than the students who conduct the
testing – by preserving the quality of our waters, Onekama
students are positively impacting the lives of everyone who
lives, works, and spends recreational time in the 21 square
miles, or 13,300 acres, encompassed by the Portage Lake
trip, Claire Harvey and Emily Jean Bergren prepare
testing equipment to take out onto Portage Lake.
Onekama Consolidated Schools
supports the belief that learning that takes place in real
world situations and that serves the community is the
richest form of learning possible. Through projects
including the Portage Lake Water Study, students develop a
sense of stewardship in regards to natural resources,
including Portage Lake and Lake Michigan.
Sophomore Curtis McKenney agrees: "I feel it is important to
actually do science and not just read and take notes about
scientists and scientific facts. It was neat that what we
did with the lake study actually gets used by those in the
community concerned with the condition of Portage Lake."
Barnard, “Portage Lake is a wonderful asset to our community
and we should protect it for future generations."
Back in the
classroom, Emily Barnard and Kelly Koon test the
dissolved oxygen content of a sample from Portage Lake.