Wadena-Deer Creek sixth-graders canoed the Crow Wing River, Sept. 13 and couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day for this outdoor adventure.
When the 91 students, along with teachers and chaperones, launched their canoes at Mary Brown Bridge, the weather was sunny, calm and climbing up to 80 degrees.
For many students, this was their first experience of being on the river in a canoe.
"I'm excited but a little nervous, too," said Lidia Ness, as she was securing her life jacket and waiting to climb into a canoe.
While students may have been a bit nervous at first, once they settled into their canoe and soaked in all the beautiful surroundings, they began to see why this trip was an amazing experience for so many reasons.
From a historical perspective, the sixth-graders are studying how voyageurs would travel in birch-bark canoes down this very river. From an outdoors perspective, the students enjoyed being surrounded by nature with no distractions.
Students also learned how to paddle a canoe, as well as work as a team, steering and paddling out of weeds or learning how to maneuver around rocks during the 8-mile course. Those pesky rocks proved to be a nuisance this trip because of the lower water level. Several kids had to jump out of their canoe to loosen their lodged canoe.
"I had a lot of fun. But those rocks were trouble!" said Madyx Shreves with a chuckle. But the rocks didn't deter her enthusiasm. She said she's eager to go canoeing again in the future.
Genevieve Pinnella caught a glimpse of an otter swimming about 10 feet from her canoe. Connor Davidson enjoyed seeing turtles sunning themselves on logs. While others admired the maples and aspens beginning to turn red and yellow, as well as spying on large carp swimming below them.
The students ended their journey at Gloege's Canoe Outfitters. Once on shore, hungry and tired students gobbled up their sack lunches at Gloege's and then headed back to the school buses. Some even took a quick nap on the way home.
For Izzy Johnson, the best part of the trip was "getting to shore!" But she said the experience was awesome.
This is the third year the sixth-grade teachers—Lori Grendahl, Tori Ehlert, Stephanie Pulver and Emily Kreklau—have organized this trip for their students. The teachers said canoeing the Crow River is more than an outdoor adventure and history lesson—it's also a wonderful opportunity for kids to bond.
"It gives our kids a chance to get to know each other outside the classroom," said Mrs. Grendahl. She said it's a fun outing these students will now have in common and can look back on fondly. In fact, the class plans to design a T-shirt to commemorate the trip with everyone's name on the back.
"I had a really good time!" said Alycyn Swanson, breaking into a big smile.