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David D. Lonsdale: What our children should know

When I am asked to do a presentation about the Great Lakes Aquarium, I use a slide of a child's drawing of the globe showing North and South America. I use this drawing because there are no Great Lakes shown on the North American continent. The l...

When I am asked to do a presentation about the Great Lakes Aquarium, I use a slide of a child's drawing of the globe showing North and South America. I use this drawing because there are no Great Lakes shown on the North American continent. The lake on which we live contains 10 percent of the world's supply of fresh water, and yet didn't exist for the child who drew the picture.
In the 21st century, fresh water will be an issue for the entire planet and perhaps the basis for armed conflict. The more we, as individuals in society, know about this precious resource, the better prepared we will be to deal with and manage the challenges that will arise throughout this country and the world.
Here in Duluth, we are part of a community in a specific geographic location at the head of the largest lake by surface area in the world -- Lake Superior. Lake Superior in turn drives the largest lake system in the world. Indeed, 20 percent of the world's available freshwater supply is found in the Great Lakes of North America.
By virtue of living on the lake, we are also members of the Lake Superior Community. Whether we live in Duluth, Ashland, Thunder Bay, Marathon or Marquette, what we do in our communities can impact the entire lake and everyone living on its shores. Even inland communities on rivers and streams that flow into the lake have an impact. As one of our educational activities urges, we must learn to think like a watershed.
We, the residents of the Lake Superior watershed, are not unique. There are large lakes around the world surrounded by watershed communities. Our goal at Great Lakes Aquarium is to use Lake Superior as a lens to help people focus on large lakes and fresh water throughout the world.
To that end, Great Lakes Aquarium is not just a building filled with tanks of fish. We have created five habitats representing six locations from around the lake, featuring fish, birds and otters. We also have 19 smaller satellite tanks highlighting specific species, from fish to frogs to turtles.
But, we also recognize, through our exhibitry, that the lake isn't just geographic locations and animals. We have exhibits that focus on geology, weather and geography. And we have exhibits that are about us. Visitors will learn about human immigration to the region, art, commerce and stewardship designed to connect human species to the Lake Superior watershed.
As visitors complete their tour of the aquarium, they will have the opportunity to broaden their view from the Lake Superior Watershed to four other large lakes; Lake Biwa in Japan, Lake Baikal in Siberia, Lake Victoria in Africa and Lake Nicaragua in Central America. In future years, our changing exhibit area will host special exhibits on fresh water, these four lakes and other large lakes worldwide.
We are looking forward to sharing this experience with area residents, visitors and one more very special group. Since 1991, without a Great Lakes Aquarium building, we have worked with over 50,000 school children. With the opening of the aquarium, we anticipate hosting 40,000 children per year. Our goal is, when asked to draw a globe, that each and every one of these children will include the Great Lakes and understand the importance of fresh water to our planet.
David D. Lonsdale is the executive director of the Great Lakes Aquarium.

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