While America’s educational system navigates budget cuts resulting from state shortfalls, two teachers from Friendship, Wis., will navigate Lewis and Clark’s cross-country sojourn via motorcycle this summer on a Fund for Teachers fellowship.
Paul Timm and Virginia Fritz, teachers at Grand Marsh Elementary School, proposed their ideal professional development experience to Fund for Teachers through an online application and, fueled by a $8,000 team grant, will now embark on a 7,000 mile journey retracing the explorers’ epic journey to emphasize its historical significance while promoting environmental awareness and physical activity.
The goal, for themselves and their students, is to understand environmental awareness and responsibility, but also to enjoy the outdoors for a lifetime, while treading on nature lightly.
"Only the Apollo trips to the moon rival the Lewis and Clark expedition when it comes to important discoveries and explorations," said Fritz who, with colleague Paul Timm from Grand Marsh Elementary, will use their grant to follow Lewis and Clark’s cross country journey, emphasizing its historical significance while promoting environmental awareness and physical activity. "To travel in their footsteps and physically challenge ourselves to endure the elements is exhilarating."
Timm added, "Just as Lewis and Clark did before us, we want to experience all of the natural conditions – wind, rain, storms, heat, and mountain cold. Making the trip on motorcycles adds intrigue and realism to our journey. We want to accomplish something few have, in order to motivate our students to attempt something equally as challenging."
The teacher team’s month-long, round trip expedition begins on June 27th down the expressway from Wisconsin to St. Louis’s Camp Dubois. From this original expedition starting point, these 21st century explorers will follow their predecessors’ trail westward on state, county and local roads paralleling the Missouri, Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers. When not riding their 2004 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide and 2002 Electra Glide Police bike, Timm and Fritz will recreate the explorers’ travails with a raft ride down the Snake River and a canoe excursion and subsequent hike along the Continental Divide.
Scheduled highlights include: Camp Mandan in North Dakota, where Lewis and Clark spent the first winter and met Sacagawea; Great Falls in Montana, where they ran into and circumvented this huge natural obstacle; the Nez Perce National Historic Park in Idaho; and Fort Clatsop in Oregon, where they finally reached the Pacific and spent the winter in preparation for their return trip.
Timm and Fritz will document their progress at corpsofdiscovery2.blogspot.com.
Upon their return, Fritz and Timm plan to use their experiences and insights to create outdoor classrooms where their students can also simulate Lewis and Clark’s adventure.
"Our area has an abundance of water and beautiful, scenic landscapes. What better way to expose our students to lifetime activities such as those undertaken by Lewis and Clark?" asked Fritz. "With the assistance of the Department of Natural Resources, we will, with our students, cut and maintain trails, identify species in our forests, and find uses for the area without doing permanent damage. We envision all children in elementary, middle and high school having access to the outdoor classrooms, and that teachers will take advantage of the opportunity for learning to occur in these atypical spaces."
"As Wisconsin educators continue working to ensure every child graduates prepared for success in the workforce or further education, it is important for teachers to continue their own studies and professional development," said Jonas Zuckerman, education consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. "The educational experiences empowered by Fund for Teachers grants provide powerful lessons that teachers can integrate into rich learning experiences for students."
"Wisconsin teachers have received more than $190,000 in FFT grants over the last two years," explained Karen Kovach Webb, FFT executive director. "These fellowships catalyze a ripple effect of inspired learning for the teacher, their students and school community. Our goal and expectation is that teachers, when empowered as lead learners, will deliver better instruction to more engaged students."
In total, 430 teachers across America received $1.7 million in Fund for Teachers grants to travel this summer on self-designed learning odysseys. A complete list of these teachers’ project descriptions and destinations is available at fundforteachers.org.