A Living Classroom

U-M’s Detroit River Story Lab charters the traditionally rigged tall ship to help run its programs on the Detroit River for U-M students as well as Detroit-area school students in its Skiff & Schooner Program. Classes transform the river into “a vibrant living classroom where students of all ages can experience the river’s rich cultural and environmental heritage for themselves, and discover ways to connect its stories with their own lives and the lives of their communities,” says David Porter, LSA professor of English and comparative literature and director of the Detroit River Story Lab. 

The Story Lab is an interdisciplinary, grant-funded initiative that partners with regional organizations to reconnect communities with the river and its stories. Through collaborative research, education, and engagement projects, the partnerships “amplify marginalized voices and foreground the role of the river and its shores as sites of stewardship, empowerment, and healing,” Porter says.

LSA departments and programs that have been represented on board include American Culture, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, English, History, Psychology, and Semester in Detroit. 

In addition to the Inland Seas instructors, community experts and U-M faculty also teach on topics such as the principles of buoyancy, the resurgence of Great Lakes sturgeon, local tribal histories, and Detroit’s storied role as the Midnight Station on the Underground Railroad.