Great lessons in our lakes

Short stuff: Education

They are a gift to us from the last ice age, visible from space and contain 19 percent of the world’s fresh water supply. They are our Great Lakes, and we rely on them as a source of not only drinking water but also recreation. Who hasn’t spent a summer day splashing around in our great lake?

Now is the time to educate our children on the importance of the Great Lakes and to foster a sense of appreciation for our very own Lake Michigan, the third largest Great Lake and the sixth largest freshwater lake in the world.

Opportunities around Chicago

Start your Great Lakes learning journey at the Museum of Science and Industry where an amazing new Omnimax film,"Mysteries of the Great Lakes,” screens three times per day, seven days per week at the Omnimax Theater (entrance at the south end of the museum). Fly past some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, via the comfort of your movie seat. Glide over majestic waterfalls, leap over cliffs, stand beside caribou and moose as they walk along the lakeshore. You’ll learn about efforts to save the dwindling sturgeon population, one of the oldest species of bony fish in existence. At home, check out www.mysteries, where you’ll find games, activities and educational resources related to the movie.

Next, jump into the Waters of the World exhibit at Chicago’s world-famous Shedd Aquarium for a swimsuit- and snorkel-free glance at the fish of Lake Michigan. Be sure to get an up-close look at the sturgeon, aka the"living fossils” featured in the"Mysteries of the Great Lakes” film. The Shedd’s Web site,, offers an array of educational videos, activities and more on the underwater world. Click on for a guide to conserving our Great Lakes: Start by printing out a Right Bite card, a pocket-sized listing of sustainable seafood choices, to keep with you when ordering at restaurants at bite_seafood_card.pdf.

You can also get involved with the Great Lakes Alliance, which works to conserve and restore the world’s largest freshwater resource through policy, education and local efforts aimed at preserving the Great Lakes region as a national treasure. Spend a day with the alliance cleaning up a beach; kids are welcome, but remember to wear durable work gloves. For event and membership information, visit

End a day of shopping with a visit to a Fish Hotel. Located at the southern end of the Michigan Avenue bridge, the Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum hosts a fancy floating fish hotel where baby fish will stay protected, grow up and then make their way into the rivers and lakes that flow through our city. The Fish Hotel boasts the finest aquatic plants in the lobby (to attract bugs for fish to eat); a second below-water-level floor, complete with more cozy wetland plants; and four deeper levels containing cribs, where bigger fish can hang out, conduct business conventions, meet, greet and more.

If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive in time to see all the giant cogs and gears in motion, spinning round and round to open the bridge for a passing boat.

The Bridgehouse is open daily from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tickets are only $3 per person; children 5 and under are free. Visit www.bridgehouse for more information.

Just have fun

Finally, don’t forget to spend as many days at the beach as your summer affords. Build sand castles, go for a dip, splash your kids and delight in our very own Great Lake; is the most comprehensive resource for information on Chicago’s 26 miles of open and free lakefront.

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