Join us for a virtual field trip of the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship. In-person field trips may be cancelled, but there’s a lot to learn from a virtual visit. Scroll down for instructions, activities and additional resources for teachers and parents.

What is the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship?

The Col. James M. Schoonmaker is a lake freighter built at the Great Lakes Engineering Works of Ecorse, Michigan and launched on July 1, 1911. At 617 feet long, the ship held the title of “Queen of the Lakes” as the largest ship operating on the Great Lakes until April 14, 1914. On the Schoonmaker’s first trip, it carried 12,650 tons of coal from Toledo, Ohio to Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The ship broke many cargo records, just in its first year.

Lake freighters like the Schoonmaker carry bulk (or loose) cargo like iron ore, grain and coal. They are part of a transportation system on the Great Lakes that moves resources from the places that produce them to the places that need them. Resources from the Great Lakes were the fuel of the Industrial Revolution and are still an important part of the economy. Toledo and other ports in Ohio are significant parts of this system and the Schoonmaker visited these ports many times during its 70 years of service.

How Does the Virtual Tour Work?

The virtual tour below of the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship visits almost all of the ship that you can see during an in-person field trip. Before you get started, scroll your cursor over the images below (or tap the images if you’re on a mobile device) for some quick instructions for using the tour.

Schoonmaker Virtual Tour

Audio Tour

These audio clips are from our NMGL Tour App and can help enhance your virtual tour. You can listen to them all or just the ones that spark your interest.

Student Activities

Transferring Energy

Many of the important systems on the Col. James M. Schoonmaker relied on the transfer of energy to make them work. One example is the steam engine, which created heat by burning coal, the heat boiled water to make steam, the pressure from the steam turned pistons, which turned the propeller, transferring energy the entire way.

Listen to the audio “Fireman,” under the Auxiliary Machinery tab to hear what it was like to work in an engine room.

Another example of the transfer of energy is the steering system. By turning the wheel in the pilothouse, mechanical energy transferred over 600 feet to the engine room, was amplified by the steering engine and turned the 24 foot rudder.

Listen to the audio “Steering Engine” to learn more.

Visit the engine room and look for the yellow and red rods that connected the wheels to the steering engine.

Build a device that uses a series of energy transfers to complete a task. Use materials you can find at home. It could be simple or as complex as a Rube Goldberg device.

Science Learning Standards: Grade 4: Physical Science: Electricity, Heat and Matter: 2. Energy can be transferred from one location to another or can be transformed from one form to another.

Life Saving Technology

Sailing on the Great Lakes could be dangerous. There have been more than 8,000 shipwrecks since 1679. Weather was one of the biggest factors in making the Great Lakes so dangerous.

Listen to the audio “Storm of 1913,” under the Pilothouse tab to hear the messages that Captain Slade sent during one of the Great Lakes most dangerous storms.

Improving communications technology on the Great Lakes was really a matter of life and death. The Schoonmaker was equipped with the wireless telegraph, which meant they could receive messages instantly from shore and other ships. That meant better weather forecasts, frequent updates, warnings about dangers and faster help when they needed it. The telegraph was cutting edge technology, and though it used radio waves to transmit, it just transmitted dots and dashes, not voices. Operators sent messages using Morse Code, an alphabet of letters created using dots and dashes. Captain Slade’s messages had to be translated into Morse Code to send and then back into English when they were received.

Did you Know S-O-S Means Save our Ship?

• • • / — — — / • • •

Translate the messages below into Morse Code on a separate sheet of paper. Use a back slash (/) between letters. What other messages could you write in Morse Code?

Heavy snow storm.

No boats moving.

One boat sunk.

Storm moderating some.

For Educators & Parents

Scroll down to find some of the Ohio Learning Standards supported by the virtual field trip. Click here for a printable Educator’s Guide, which includes the learning standards, instructions for using the virtual tour and the student activities.

How is it educational?
This virtual tour supports Ohio Learning Standards for Social Studies. The tour is ideal for students in 4th grade or High School students studying American History, but would benefit students at other grade levels studying transportation, industrialization or technology.

Ohio Learning Standards Supported by the Virtual Tour:

  • Social Studies Theme: Fourth Grade: Ohio in the United States.
    • Geography Strand: Places & Regions: 10. The economic development of the United States continues to influence and be influenced by agriculture, industry and natural resources in Ohio.
    • Geography Strand: Human Systems: 14. Ohio’s location and its transportation systems continue to influence the movement of people, products and ideas in the United States.
    • Economics Strand: Production & Consumption: 21. Entrepreneurs in Ohio and the United States organize productive resources and take risks to make a profit and compete with other producers.
  • High School American History Topic: Industrialization & Progressivism (1877-1920): 8. The rise of corporations, heavy industry, mechanized farming and technological innovations transformed the American economy from an agrarian to an increasingly urban industrial society.