Teach Your Children Well


Yesterday, I passed out some expedition stickers to my 8th grade science students. Well, they are not mine literally, but I spent an entire semester at Jefferson Junior High School with many of them, ten weeks as a student teacher of 8th-grade social studies, and six weeks of 8th-grade science. I kind of consider them mine, at least figuratively.

Jefferson Junior High School. Columbia, Missouri’s first high school in 1911.

I was substitute teaching yesterday for my science students and we watched a marvelous Planet Earth video called “Fresh Water.” I watched the movie five times as I had five classes to teach. Never was I bored with it, but with each viewing became totally immersed in the photography of the wildlife and the waterways highlighted in the movie.

Grand Canyon’s Colorado River

One river highlighted was the Amazon River in South America. The Amazon carries more water than the next top-ten biggest rivers combined. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean after meandering 4,000 miles eastward from its source in the Peruvian Andes.

The Amazon River
The Amazon River

The students enjoyed the video, too. We saw grizzly bears feeding on salmon in British Columbia, a team of smooth-coated otters harassing a 13-foot crocodile in an Indian River, eight-foot fresh water dolphins, Botos,

Fresh water dolphins of the Amazon River.
Fresh water dolphins of the Amazon River.

navigating by sonar in the murky waters of the Amazon River, the falling waters of Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the highest in the world, mating lake flies producing smoke-like columns extending hundreds of yards up in the sky on one of the world’s largest lakes in the East African Rift Valley, and a red-bellied piranha feeding frenzy in the underwater forests of Brazil’s Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland.

Angel Falls
Angel Falls
Lake Flies mating before dropping eggs on water and dying.
Lake Flies mating before dropping eggs on water and dying.

Honestly, I had not planned to give away my stickers and tell them about my expedition, but the opportunity presented itself perfectly after watching “Fresh Water.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen (the line I use to get their attention), I don’t know when I will be back in this classroom, so I have a small announcement to make:  I have been planning an expedition since last June. I will be leaving in 2 ½ months, on April 14th, to solo kayak the entire length of the Missouri River, which starts in Montana.  The Missouri River is the longest river in North America and the fourth longest in the world, and flows about 2600 miles from its ‘source’ in the Centennial Mountains to St. Louis.”


Their response:

WHAT are you doing? What’s a kayak? Where are you going to sleep? What will you do for food? Who is going with you? How long will it take you? You’ll have a motor, won’t you? Won’t you be scared? The river is dangerous. That’s crazy. I could never do that!  Good luck.

My response:

“This is one of my objectives: I want you, and kids like you, to know that “you can do anything”, if you have the desire, a positive attitude, and support to help you. I want to model that for you by doing this trip.”

Now, I would like to add:

So listen up:  chase negatives away, just like the smooth-coated otters did with the crocodile, and “Make It Happen,” no matter what the “It” may be. Got it, guys?

Teach Your Children Well