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Great Minds, Great Lakes


Social Studies

The Journey of the Great Lakes



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The Journey Continues on Lake Michigan

Lake Guardian was so happy to reach Lake Michigan, the third largest lake in the Great Lakes. This area had the most farmland of all the other Lakes, and Lake Guardian had heard many stories about the tasty cherries of Michigan and dairy products of Wisconsin. Lake Guardian loves cherries, and since three-quarters of our nations tart cherries are grown in Michigan, she headed straight down the Michigan coastline, passing Ludington, Muskegon and Benton Harbor. Dave, the environmental scientist, had made Lake Guardian promise she'd stop so he could have a piece of cherry pie, and then head over to Wisconsin's dairy farm to get a slice of cheddar cheese and a glass of milk to go with it.

All the news that Lake Guardian learned about the Lake Michigan area was not good, though. She learned how hard farmers work to grow good food for all of us to eat. Their job was harder than hers! Many farmers use chemicals to fight off insects and weeds and to help their crops grow better, but some chemicals can later become pollution problems for the Great Lakes. Lake Guardian cruised along the shore and watched how the rain washed the chemicals off the land and carried them into the Lake. She was worried that these chemicals may hurt her friends in the wetlands, so she stopped to collect many samples of water and sediment to find out how much pollution was coming from the farms and if it was harming plants and animals. Lake Guardian also watched how the wind carried off some of the chemicals that a farmer was spraying on his fruit trees.

Cruising to the south end of Lake Michigan, Lake Guardian came to the big city areas. It was exciting to ride by Gary, Indiana where the mills were busy making steel, but she worried about where the wind would take all the smoke rising out of the smokestacks. When Lake Guardian arrived at Chicago, she couldn't believe how many boats there were everywhere! Big boats carrying cargo, small boats carrying fishermen, and people having fun in fast boats that were so loud that they hurt her ears. It made her think about noise pollution too, and how the noise must scare the birds and animals that live around the Lakes. Lake Guardian thought about all the fuel that must be going into the water from these boats, and she decided that her favorite boats were the clean and beautiful sailboats that relied only on the wind to make them move.

So far, Lake Guardian had not been to an area with cities as big as Chicago. One of the first things that she noticed was the big difference in the color of the water. She remembered how clear and blue Lake Superior was, and when she looked at the water at the edge of Chicago, she couldn't see through it at all. She talked to some local fish and asked them what they know about pollution near the big city. Rainbow Smelt told her stories similar to Herring Gull. "Most people love how the rain clears the air and washes the streets, but we fish sure don't. Living next to a large city means that a lot of litter and dirt washes or blows off the streets and into the Lake. Most people don't realize where that gum wrapper or cigarette is going to go if they just throw it on the ground. It makes me very sad. Rainwater also washes down the city sewers, and that is good because it goes to a special machine, called a wastewater treatment plant, that cleans it up first. But sometimes if it rains really hard, the sewers overflow, causing the dirty water to overflow straight into the Lake." After listening to rainbow Smelt, Lake Guardian carefully gathered samples of water, fish, plants, and mud form the shorelines of Chicago. Waukegan, Sheboygan, and other cities on Lake Michigan. She had to travel quickly , for it was a long way to Lake Erie. She had to travel back through Lake Huron to get there.


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