Thursday, August 25, 2016

Alaska, sled dogs and a challenge to engage the kids in your classes

Over the last two blog posts, Fishing in Alaska Part 1 and Part 2, I have shared some of my family trip to Alaska. I can honestly say that it was the most amazing trip I have ever taken.

Nothing like it!

Part of my reason for sharing this adventure was to also ask how trips like these could help us make our classes come alive.

After all, so many of our kids have barely ventured beyond the community they live or throughout their own state.


How could we use an adventure with a few stories and pictures to start an investigation, create a story, explain the worlds around us, take a closer look at an event, explain natural phenomenon, and so much more.

Let’s start with another part of my trip to Alaska. We not only fished but we also flew in a helicopter to the top of a glacier and visited a sled dog camp.

We were taught how the dogs were trained, interacted with the dogs and drivers, and even played with a few pups. The highlight of the event was to be pulled across the top of the glacier by the team. By the way, all of these dogs were training for the next Iditarod. Want to know more here is another link.

In order to get to the dogs we had to fly by helicopter to the top of the glacier. To get an idea of what you are looking out in my pictures...see the deep blue, white and dark of the glacier? Well some of those crevices are at the very least 80 feet deep.

In an earlier post, I talked about how I felt that I was travelling to where all the dinosaurs were still alive. Well, this trip reminded me of one of my favorite Walt Disney movies from the early 70s - The Island at the Top of the World. The mist, the rocks, and ice and dogs and sleds. Out of the mist there was snow! It was cold! The dogs wanted you to play with them and rub their bellies. It was a perfect setting for the travelers who set off on a new adventure and find...dinosaurs? ….a mysterious city with people who are from a different time? My mind was and is all over the place.

Look at these pictures. A new adventure. Do you hear the Indiana Jones theme playing in the background?

What could we talk about?

What activities could we create that would engage the kids about the world around them?
Maybe we could get them to use a mind mapping app or mini-white boards to  outline a story of a trip they have taken. Maybe we could get the kids to create a what happened next or examine the history behind different forms of transportation journey.

What do you think?
I challenge you to pursue ways of engaging the kids around adventures like my trip to Alaska or your trip to the Florida Keys or maybe an overnight journey on the trails at Red Top Mountain.

So...what are you thinking about doing?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fishing in Alaska and the Classroom, part 2

The River in Alaska

This trip to Alaska was amazing! 
The first five days were living and breathing fishing. The pictures you see in this post are on the river. 

Here I am with the first King Salmon that I caught! Let me just say, Wow!!! 

You know when you have hooked one and they only let you keep 4 for per person for your time on the river. So you keep the bigger fish. Most of the fish are between 32 and 42 inches long with some getting as large as 50 inches. They filet them that day and then freeze them. (The only electricity in the camp is for the freezers for storing fish and for the food we ate. Did I say there is no such thing as cell phone connectivity up there. It was nice to be truly disconnected from the outside world.) When you come back you travel with your salmon packed away in coolers that you brought with you!

We slept in tents that had raised platforms with sleeping bags, mosquito netting and sleeping bags. The mosquitoes were bad. The netting worked wonderfully to keep them away from you at night. During the day there was typically a breeze that kept them at bay, as well.

Summer time there is almost no darkness. You have to remind yourself how late it is and go to bed otherwise you might end up not sleeping. The picture above was taken looking out from the tent area at the river at somewhere close to 2am. I didn't use any special filters. This is just me and my iphone.

The river. Check out the mountains in the distance.

Check out the purple flowers growing on an island in the middle of the river. Too beautiful. 

How about the paw print. Look closely you can see that it is a bear track. One of the places we stopped to have shore lunch...yes we ate part of what we caught each day for lunch. There was evidence that bear had been there before us...paw prints and the remains of salmon were quite common. 

The river where we fished was about 4 to 6 hours upstream from the bay where the commercial fishing is taking place. We were in an area where the members of the camp were all of the people that you would hear or run into. Getting away from everyone and everything. In this picture I am holding my first sockeye salmon. They taught us how to use fly fishing gear to catch these fish. Too cool. 

This part of the river is very different from the other area. It is shallow and slow moving (it actually is a different river by name.) This region has successfully been protected from outside intrusion. Most recently a European mining company tried to put a copper mining operation in this area and after several years of court room and legal action, the river has been saved. I am hoping to have some guests on my audio podcast this fall who will talk about this battle to protect the river and the wildlife.

 After so many wonderful days of fishing and getting to spend time with my family members the planes came back to get us...waaaaaaaaa. I sure did have fun! Now it was time to go in to civilization briefly before discovering more about Alaska from whales to fishing for halibut, eagle watching, encountering puffins, flying in helicopters to the top of glaciers to interact with sled dogs and so much more.

The Classroom

So let's talk about using trips like these to create engagement in the classroom.

You can't do it through just showing pictures but that will help.

I don't know about you but many of the students I taught or worked with over the years had never been out of their state nevertheless out of the small community where they lived. Their view of the world was small. 

Alaska? Where is Alaska? We would have to start with an activity there.

What if we did it though through an activity that let them find more information about the region of the country? We could use the information I shared in this post. What activity could you create that would require the students to develop an understanding of words that will be new to them. How about an activity that would help the kids understand location on the globe? Think about the landscape and the wilderness?  What is so different about where they live and what is similar?

How could you make this fun, interesting, and engaging?

Remember that we had to fly by float the way the pilots call them Beavers.

The only way to get people and supplies into the camp is by plane. 

There is no cell phone communication. The camp has a satellite phone for emergencies. Expensive to use so they have to reserve it for real emergencies.

Do you remember that I said that the only electricity was used for feeding us and storing food? Guess what else we didn't have...bathrooms. They created a shower tent that used water collected in barrels from the river and rainfall. They treated these barrels so that the water was safe for human consumption as well. But this also meant that there were no toilets ...we had to use outhouses. By the way the outhouses had a wonderful view of the tundra.

So what ideas are you getting about how you could use this trip or one you have taken to create an engaging activity to introduce some subject within your content?

Does it give you an idea for creating an experiential trip for your students in your subject area?

Here is another possibility for a topic. Have the kids you taught ever fished or eaten fish that didn't come from the grocery store or a fast food restaurant? How does it get to them? What is the difference between wild game fish and farm raised fish? In the salmon industry this is very controversial. Why?

Hopefully, the grey matter is on fire and churning!

I challenge you to help the kids explore the world while helping you grow their understanding of the content area that you teach.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fishing in Alaska and the Classroom

OK, so put the coolers and luggage here…
in front of the scale so’s I can get that weight.

Millie will get your weights.

No lying or that..ha!
’cause you might make us hit a few trees...hmmm?

Ted was a funny guy or at least he tried to be.

We were in a hangar at the far end of the regular airport.
It took five or more hours to get here and now we were about to board a plane that fit luggage and 11 people if you count the pilot and the seat next to him.

When we sat-he sized us up and had us trade seats to shift the weight around...either that or he was just messing with us.

Nah, he wasn’t talkative. Didn’t smile and he sure didn’t really interact with us…
no problem just fly the plane and get us there.

Boy did he miss his chance to be funny...I mean he was tall and had to kneel down inside the plane to talk to us about the seat belts and the flotation devices…(smile...get it? funny)
What no drink service? No bathroom, either?

I have flown lots of places but I’m not sure that ...ok. I’m positive that I have never, ever flown over- nothing- absolutely nothing that was man made...for the next two hours the plane flew just above mountain tops and over rivers, streams and snow and! words just wow…2 or more hours of wow…

Soon we landed at a small airport on a lake.

Check out this sign that is located in the shed where they place your luggage.

Safety Around Bears
My favorite parts of this sign-
Bears may bluff charge and come very close to you. Hold your ground. and If a bear touches you, surrender. Fall to the ground and play dead.

Hmm.This got me thinking about where we were going. You know the idea that the exhibits might eat you? Know what movie that is from?

Hey, Dad...focus you were talking about the lake...

sorry ...
After a little bit of sitting and looking and laughing about the adventure that was on its way…
Oh, yea and using the last real bathroom with actual plumbing...
It was time to be slip into a van for a short trip to the lake…

The van driver helped us unload our stuff on the gravel shore…
Beautiful water with just a little bit of a breeze and nice low 60s crispy air..
Sun and in the distance mountains…

Then there was the low rumble a motor - in the air..just over ...over there..yea…
The float plane approached over the horizon then dipped out of sight and suddenly it was back in front of us as it barreled across the top of the lake--touching-lightly bouncing and then gliding on top of the was a surreal ice skater...arriving to mid-ice to receive the roar of the crowd...ok- so there wasn’t any ice but cool…

The plane made its way to the shore and out popped the pilot to load our stuff in the back of the plane and in the pontoons.

There were 9 of us so only 4 could leave on the first plane…

The rest of us waited for the next one to arrive…

Take off from that lake was amazing...the plane maneuvers into position-slowly and then the pilot guns the engine ...spray hits the windows...we are heading for the treeline...wait..doesn’t the water end there? Hey, you think you might want to go a little faster? Hmmm? I mean those trees are getting closer and we aren’t off the...Wow!!!

Off the water...straight at the trees - up and over...up, up and away….move over Superman!!!

Did you ever see that movie about the island where there are these crazy scientists who bring dinosaurs back to life? Well, I have many times and I swear that as we traveled deeper into the back-country that we were going to see dinosaurs.

Dad there aren’t any dinosaurs...yeah but it sure looks like…
Dad get back to the story...ok

These planes flew lower...and we saw water, plants, trees, eagles-bald eagles, a family of bears...was that a caribou?

Then a river appears and we descend over the trees and down to the water….smooth as glass...what a landing…

Straight ahead are small boats with guys dressed in fishing waders...waiting for…

Dorothy you ain’t in Kansas anymore…
Ok so I'm not Dorothy and I'm not from Kansas and I sure butchered that reference to an old movie but ...time for a WOW!!!

Hi...I’m, Jason, Mark, Evan,Neal... let’s go to the camp!

We loaded the boats,  motored up river to John and the fishing camp on the hill…

The most amazing trip I have ever taken...Fishing in the back-country of Alaska was about to begin…

So stay tuned and next time when the story continues let’s talk tents, outhouses, wild blueberries, the river, bald eagles, bear signs, fish, eating fish, big fish, shore lunches, casting, drifting, and fly fishing, boats and no cars, no buildings, no other people.

Listen...its nature calling...and wait it doesn’t really get dark...more cool...

Start thinking about how you could use stories of trips that you have taken or could even plan school related trips to bring engagement and excitement to your classroom.

More about my trip soon.