It might sound like a tired cliché, but seriously, learning can be fun! Our January blog discussed that our Eco-Adventure trips are educational adventure trips, primarily whitewater rafting, that utilize an experiential approach as students are immersed in a wilderness environment. In this follow up blog we want to talk more about how an ecoadventure trip can help schools, teachers and students by discussing more specifics and examples. Learning can really be an adventure when you are immersed in an actual adventure!
Fortunately for us, you (the instructor) and your students the St. Louis River corridor supplies a myriad of educational opportunities for life and earth sciences, as well as physical and cultural education. Through this place-based learning approach, we believe we can help participants foster a connection with their local environment and learn science. Additionally, students gain physical skills, problem-solving skills, build relationships and have fun!
From a purely educational standpoint we can help teacher and instructors hit on some of the necessary benchmarks within Minnesota Department of Education Standards, or science and physical education standards in your college curriculum. Our education director, Cliff Langley, has a Master of Arts in Education Degree in Natural Science and Environmental Ed. Over the last five years he has implemented educational standards into our adventures. Let’s discuss a few examples below:
Standard: Science. Concepts: Living systems and Human Interactions. Goals we can accomplish: Gain an understanding of the flow of energy in a northern coniferous forest or river ecosystem. Discuss defining characteristics of a coniferous biome. Discuss interactions within a river ecosystem and monitoring water quality.
For certain high school environmental science and biology classes we have provided some relevant background information prior to the trip on bioindicators in a river ecosystem, in this case macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrates are insects that start out their lives living in the bottoms of rivers and lakes, such as dragonflies and mayflies, that later emerge as adults. Certain macroinvertebrates are highly sensitive to pollution and need high levels of dissolved oxygen to survive. The presence, or absence, of certain species is a bioindicator of a healthy river ecosystem.
On these whitewater rafting eco-adventure trips we stop halfway down the river and we collect and identify these little critters using a kick net along the river bottom. The students are taking a hands-on approach as they collect and identify insects understanding methods used by scientists to collect and interpret data. This not only increases student engagement but helps to create a connection to their local environment as they are assessing the health of the river they live nearby or visit.
Other trips focused on forest ecology we take advantage of the second generation old-growth pines along the St. Louis River. Some of these huge pines are over 170 years old or older! As we paddle down the river students get to see towering pines on both sides of the river with life interacting within, such as belted kingfishers taking flight or a majestic eagle taking a break. We stop at one stand of giant red and white pines and discuss how forest fires shape the ecology of coniferous forests. It’s one thing to see a picture of a huge pine in a classroom but it is another to stand underneath one and look up as it rises over a hundred feet towards the sky. Such interactions create emotion and connection that help create a unique and more complete learning experience.
Those are just a couple of examples of what we can do in life sciences. We are able to do this for other education standards too such as Earth Science, such as discussing evidence of plate tectonic movements in the exposed Thomson Formation bedrock of the St. Louis River, or evidence of glacial activity. For physical education, participants are able to demonstrate an understanding of movement by learning to paddle and work together while whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River. Additionally, we can also cover social studies concepts such as the cultural history of the St. Louis River and the interconnectedness of the environment and human activities.
By taking an experiential approach to science and adventure education we feel we can give students a superb interactive experience. We can share in an adventure that gives us all a break from all the things that demand our attention in the modern world and just be in the moment. Besides safety, fun and learning we hope that we can help students connect with their local environment in a way that creates value. Whatever the value, whether it is intrinsic,
life-supporting, economic, recreational, scientific or spiritual.
Also, if the eco-adventure is whitewater rafting you can count on some thrills too!! We have special discounted rates for school groups.
Please call or email us to discuss how we can help you plan an eco-adventure trip with Swiftwater Adventures and help supply you with any necessary resources to help in your educational adventure!