Ed. Note: Our friends at OAR Northwest have a new adventure planned, this one an ambitious ongoing educational program that will bring kids nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River, sharing what they learn with fellow students around the world, year after year. These guys keep coming up with adventures and they are committed to making this a very real educational tool. Jordan Hannsen will explain. He didn’t push it, but we will: If you want to donate to their “crowd funding” efforts, click here. We’ll be hounding Jordan for reports on how this is going.
Adventure as an Inspired Teacher
About 10 years ago, just after college, three friends and I decided to take a 29-foot rowboat from New York to England in a 3,200 mile rowing race. Why we did this is a great question, and it has a simple answer: we thought it was a cool idea.
We did not have a single night at sea between the four of us – and that was the least of our worries. How to row across the ocean? This question precipitated many more: How were we going to navigate? Survive? Eat? Sleep? Communicate? The list went on.
We named our team Ocean Adventure Racing Northwest (OAR Northwest), referencing our racing goal and our location in the Pacific Northwest. Over 18 months, we attempted to answer our many questions by immersing ourselves in this singular goal. It was anything but a singular answer, and it pulled from almost every subject we had ever studied. We found math when we studied navigation, boat design, and the most efficient geometry of the rowing; meteorology in weather; and physics and chemistry in the water desalinator. History and literature emerged as we studied how people before us had crossed oceans. Then we would learn climatology and oceanography. We became a nonprofit while learning about business, law, and communicating our vision to the wider world. I would say it worked out alright: we won the race and received a Guinness world record.
Click on photos to enlarge.
“Adventure” we discovered, was an inspired teacher. It does two things quite well: it shows how all the subjects we learn are connected and it thereby inspires the desire to learn subjects that may otherwise be challenging to study.
Few subjects were left untouched in the pursuit of our goal. For the first time in our lives, we saw the world as it is – not a set of subjects studied hour by hour but a multidisciplinary puzzle.
Racing Toward Conservation Education
In the last nine years, our team has changed its course from a nonprofit supporting amateur Ocean Adventure Racing to Ocean Adventure Rowing and Education organization and kept the name. Since 2011, we have completed the “Salish Sea Expedition,” in which we circumnavigated Canada’s Vancouver Island in 2012, and the “Africa to the Americas Expedition” from Dakar, Senegal to Miami, Florida in 2013. Both of these trips, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, provided opportunities for us to share real-life science and conservation issues with children and educators across the globe.
If you watch Dateline NBC, you may already know that our “Africa to Americas Expedition” changed from a journey focused on education and science to one focused on survival with the freak convergence of waves and circumstance. The dramatic conclusion of this journey was covered by Dateline NBC this April. (To find out more, visit our Expeditions page at oarnorthwest.com.)
Our goal is to continue bringing conservation education to the classroom by providing fun, easy-to-use, standards-based, multidisciplinary curriculums wound around a real-time adventure narrative.
To reach this goal, we are launching the “Adventure: Mississippi River” annual expedition series. The program aims to inspire students to experience their own adventures, help them understand potential environmental impacts of their everyday actions, and get them engaged in the rich history and diversity of species along the Mississippi River and its immense watershed. No other river in the United States carries more broad significance to the entire nation than the Mighty Mississippi. The first trip will commence in late August 2014 from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and run the length of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico by late November. Each fall, a new crew of OAR Northwest adventure educators will descend the river while bringing a fresh narrative to an evolving curriculum.
We need YOUR help to connect with schools. If you live close to the Mississippi River, we are looking for schools that our
adventure educators can visit during our journey along the river. Our goal is to visit three schools in each of the 10 states along the river and we still have a little room in each state for more partners. If you are an educator (or know someone who is), please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or sign up at oarnorthwest.com/education.
If you are not near the river, you can still be part of the adventure by connecting with us online. Teachers can bring this adventure to their classrooms and know that it will be available at the same time next year free of charge. In addition to the curriculum, you will get access to the rowers and other schools involved and become a collaborative partner in each other’s learning.
For a downloadable handout, visit oarnorthwest.com/expeditions/adventure-mississippi-river. Please share it with people you know who may find it interesting or wish to get involved.
I’m looking forward to meeting you on the river.