Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 2201: Restore, Release

Lighthouse preservation, community renewal, and sturgeon teach Native American culture.


Restore, Release – Episode 2201


Volunteers work to preserve a historic Great Lakes lighthouse, a Chicago community finds new life through embracing its past and high school students learn about Native American culture with the help of lake sturgeon.






Explore this month’s hands-on lesson plans designed to help your middle schoolers understand the Great Lakes — all at home or in the classroom. They’re aligned to standards and free to download.

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In the Month of January on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 2201.

Carl Jahn looks ahead as he and other volunteers approach the iconic Spectacle Reef Lighthouse. (Photo Credit: GLN)

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Love for a Lighthouse

SEGMENT 1 | Northern Lake Huron and Cheboygan, Michigan

The Spectacle Reef Lighthouse sits 17 miles from the mainland in the Straits of Mackinac.  It was considered a marvel of construction when it was built in 1869 and became a model for lighthouses constructed throughout the northern Great Lakes.

A group of lighthouse enthusiasts bought the structure and formed a non-profit organization, Spectacle Reef Preservation Society, dedicated to preserving and restoring the lighthouse. Every weekend from the spring to the fall a group of volunteers travel to the lighthouse by boat and work on renovations. Their goal is to make the lighthouse an educational center where visitors can come and learn about the history of lighthouses on the Great Lakes.

One of the challenges to working on the lighthouse is unpredictable weather.  The day our Great Lakes Now crew joined the volunteers, high winds and heavy seas threatened the team’s efforts. 

“When you’re this far offshore on the second most remote lighthouse on the Great Lakes, Mother Nature calls the shots,” said Patrick McKinstry, the president of the Spectacle Reef Preservation Society.  


Here is other Great Lakes Now work on lighthouse restoration: 

An archival photo of the Pullman porters, many of whom were formerly enslaved. The porters worked on the Pullman railcars moving baggage, assisting passengers and and maintaining railcars. (Photo Credit: Pullman National Monument)

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Greening the Pullman Neighborhood

SEGMENT 2 | Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood on the southside of the city was almost bulldozed out of existence. 

It was once a thriving company town founded by George Pullman. His company built luxurious railroad cars, employing hundreds of workers. But, the Pullman neighborhood fell on hard times when the industry dried up. 

Plans were in the works to turn the nearly forgotten area into an airport. But, Pullman residents rose up and fought City Hall. 

Today, Pullman is thriving again after politicians, business and community leaders worked together to come up with a plan. Capitalizing on Pullman’s rich history, they attracted investors and breathed new life into an old, rusted out industrial corridor to create a sustainable green industry success story. 

Can this same formula be used to rescue other struggling Rust Belt communities in the Great Lakes Region? 


Here is other Great Lakes Now work on sustainability in communities: 

A group of students walks to the river to prepare for releasing a sturgeon into the wild. The day is the capstone of an educational sturgeon program created by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. (Photo Credit: GLN)

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Classroom Nmé

SEGMENT 3 | Pellston, Michigan

When the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in northern Michigan decided to create an educational program that would highlight their current natural resources work, the tribe naturally turned to lake sturgeon or nmé, the grandfather fish to pull it all together.

The first lake sturgeon started high school in Pellston, Mich. with the class of 2014. 

The program proved successful but expanding into more classrooms created new challenges.  

Like, what if the fish got sick? How would the LTBB biologists in northern Michigan help fish in classrooms that were hundreds of miles away on the other side of the state?


Here is other Great Lakes Now work on sturgeon: 

Videos from Episode 2201
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Michigan’s wild places — and the fish and wildlife that call them home — are under threat as warmer temperatures cause species to migrate northward and rivers to overheat. Advocates called for more resources to protect Michigan’s fish and game from those changes.

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Digital Credits
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.