The Inspiration of the Coppermine Expedition

Check out The COPPERMINE EXPEDITION 2012.  I can see a ton of parallels to my vision, which is on a smaller scale but same big idea:

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The Expedition

Statement of Objectives
The proposed expedition will take six participants from Yellowknife, N.W.T. to Kugluktuk, NU, by canoe and develop educational materials to bring the journey to Canadian classrooms. In pursuing this opportunity, expedition members wish to further develop their careers as educators in combination with a passion for outdoor and experiential education. In doing so, we hope to be able to contribute in a positive manner to the understanding and appreciation of Canadian history and geography through various forms of media. Our objective is to expand the geographic appreciation, and knowledge of this remote region of the Canadian wilderness, encouraging thoughtful debate and discussion on both environmental and
economic themes.

In support of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s mandate to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world, while on the expedition, we will be creating a series of interactive lesson plans for classrooms. We will be submitting these to the Canadian Council for Geographic Education, and upon completion of the trip, these lesson plans will be made available through this website. Students and teachers will be able to explore the route and find a range of materials appropriate to their grade level.

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From Canoe and Kayak Magazine:

Coppermine 2012

An ambitious 1,000-mile odyssey across the Canadian North

By: / Posted on June 18, 2012

Why is it important that young Canadians learn about this part of their country?
Stef Superina: Canada’s north, its rich history and diverse geography, are all too commonly skipped in our history textbooks. As a country that derives much of its wealth from natural resources, the Canadian north will play an important role in our country’s growth. Engaging our youth in discussion on economic and environmental themes is integral to the sustainable development of our country’s resource base, as they will ultimately become the decision makers of the future.

I think I said somewhere:  The Missouri River, its rich history and diverse geography, is all too commonly skipped in our history textbooks.  Well, maybe not those exact words, but in similar concept.

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How cool it would be to have support from a geographical society!?  But then, I’d need a crew.  Then, it would no longer be a solo trek.  Then, it would be an occupation, and I’d never make it to the classroom with the children.  Being in the classroom with the children is important, too.  I will just have to make do with less support, and more creativity, resourcefulness, and energy.  And, perhaps, a Coppermine will help.  (…and a really good camera!)

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Plenty of Food for Thought

Lake Oahe (photo by Bob Bellingham)

Every morning of every day I think about my trip with great anticipation and longing to get on the water.  I look forward to the solitude and the simplicity, waking in the morning near the water, starting the stove for coffee, searching for whatever wildlife will come my way, taking photos, reading, or writing in a journal.  Perhaps I have set up my tent facing the river so when I wake up I can lay in my sleeping bag gazing at the river and dream about the day ahead, or the day behind.  I have backpacked alone before.  I am comfortable in the wilderness.

Camping alone (1983) in the Mokelumne River Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Sheltered Bay on Lake Francis Case (photo by Bob Bellingham)

In three weeks I will have an education degree in social studies and science.  So, this morning I’m thinking about how I can make this trek and this degree work together.  I glance over at my NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) monthly newspaper I get in the mail.  I see a photo of a man on top of a snow-covered mountain.  The caption reads, “Minnesota high school science teacher…uses photographs taken during his world travels to stimulate inquiry in his classes.”  Sweet!  As I read the article, I learn that his photograph introduces a topic, prompts a story, generates student interest, provokes questions to which the students want answers, initiates a real life connection, brings the mountains into his Minnesota classroom, and creates a teachable moment.  BINGO!  I can do that!  My past experiences can provide lots of material.  My upcoming trip will create a file full of opportunities.

Windsurfing S.F. Bay. That’s me in the middle heading out towards the cruise ship from which my brother, Jim Sullens, took this picture. Certainly, a teachable moment somewhere in there.

As an example, on all of his experiences this teacher records basic weather data (temperature, precipitation, cloud coverage, wind speed and direction) which provides a transition into graphing and analyzing data.  Great idea!  Now I am thinking, hmmm, the ecology aspect of being on the river and the exposure to wildlife and, of course, environmental stewardship are teachable opportunities.  And the dams, the many dams, can provide ample high-powered subject matter.  How about the geology and geography between Montana and Missouri?  And, oooh, the moon phases and constellations?  Hey, what about bringing into the classroom the sights and scenery experienced by Lewis and Clark and their crew, and the Native Americans with whom they came in contact?  My head is spinning with possibilities!

Moonrise (photo by Dom Liboiron)
Gavin’s Point Dam (photo by Bob Bellingham)
This monument is on Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and is dedicated to two missionaries who worked with the Lakota. It features Christian and Native cultural and religious symbols. The stones also had many fossils imbedded in them. (photo/caption by Dominique Liboiron)

So much food for thought!  If I am not able to have an outdoor classroom, I will strive to bring the outdoor classroom inside.

178-mile long Lake Sakakawea, held back by Garrison Dam, home to extremely high winds. (photo by Dominique Liboiron)
No, it is not the ocean. These are waves produced by winds on Lake Sharpe. (photo by Dom Liboiron)

Yes, I look forward to the solitude, but the simplicity may be more multifaceted than I thought.

If you are reading this, and you have some teachable moment ideas for me to think about on my trip, I encourage you to comment.  Thanks!

Live fast ~ paddle slow

I better get back to my homework.  🙂