By Katey Dolezal
Six weeks have passed since Dave and Amy Freeman set out on Lake Superior by kayak and began making their way towards the Atlantic Ocean. This is the fifth stage of their North American Wilderness Classroom Odyssey, a cross-continental trip by dogsled, kayak, and canoe. A 501(c)3 since 2004, The Wilderness Classroom has led over ten expeditions, connecting classrooms across the country to their exploration via classroom visits and their interactive website www.wildernessclassroom.com. For this leg of the journey, Dave and Amy are joined by John Amren, a friend who is paddling around Lake Superior, and Dan Modahl, a Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education student at Bervard College.
The team is currently paddling 20 miles per day, but plans to work up to more mileage as their muscles adjust, they say. Much of their time is spent making videos for their website, responding to students, and creating website content. “One area we’re trying to build is doing more video conferencing so we can have live connections with kids from the field,” Dave says. “We’d also like to branch out to facilitate other expeditions and classrooms, such as trips to Antarctica and the North Pole.” Collaborations with arctic and Antarctic explorers are currently in the works as Dave and Amy would like to take the learning model they’ve developed and have other expeditions use that to connect with classrooms.
One of the interactive features on their website is a poll where students can vote for what they would like The Wilderness Classroom to study and research during upcoming segments of their trip. As Dave and Amy approached the Slate Islands on northern Lake Superior earlier in May, the polling options were woodland caribou, geology, or human history. Studying the woodland caribou population won by a landslide and the team ended up spotting not only caribou but also encountering bold snowshoe hare. “[The snowshoe hare] are unafraid of humans and hopped right past us, because they don’t have any land predators,” explains Dave. “Their population continues to grow until a cold hard winter occurs when the population crashes and then is slowly built up again.”
Students also voted for what type of fishing license Dan should get by responding to Dave’s Dilemma, another interactive website feature where students can offer suggestions for a problem Dave posts. Now that the team has two licenses, there is a lot more Lake Trout to go around. “Food is a form of entertainment for us,” Dave says, “Cooking meals, talking about what we’re going to make is a big part of our day; fishing is especially entertaining. The water is still really cold so the Lake Trout is good because they’re close to the surface.”
The team plans to reach the Atlantic Ocean by early September and be in the Florida Keys by the end of April 2013. To learn more about their expedition and get daily notes from the field, Click HERE.
The Freemans have also recently been nominated for the first annual Canoe & Kayak Awards Paddle With Purpose Award. Cast your vote for Dave and Amy, or any of the other very worthy nominees at CKAwards.com.