Special blog post by Perry Smith and Susan Jurries
Arbor Vitae-Woodruff Elementary
May 3, 2019
On Thursday, April 25, 2019 fifty-one fourth graders, four teachers, and one paraprofessional educator boarded the bus at 8:15 AM for the 160 mile trip to Superior, WI and Duluth, MN from our school in Woodruff, Wisconsin. We were followed by a caravan of fifteen parents and guardians, all for the purpose of experiencing the twin ports on Lake Superior. This adventure is an integral part of our Learning Expedition entitled What’s so Great About the Great Lakes? This two month, in-depth study is a multidisciplinary exploration of the geography, history, ecology and economic impact of the Great Lakes.
Our first stop was The University of Wisconsin, Superior, where the students took part in a campus tour, and got a small taste of what college is all about. Many AV-W alumni attend UW Superior, and this stop allowed our students to begin to realize some of the educational options they will have in the future.
Next on the agenda was a visit to the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, located in Duluth right next to the world famous Aerial Lift Bridge. Our timing was impeccable, as the 1,004 foot Laker the Edwin H. Gott was just pulling into the Duluth Ship Canal. The bridge raised, the horns sounded, and the students were thrilled to witness this behemoth of the lakes up close and personal! They were also amazed to witness the descent of the bridge, and experience the low clearance the pedestrian walkway underneath the bridge offers.
Next to enter the Ship Canal was the Saltie called the Federal Barents. The scale of this ship, while less impressive than the Gott, illustrated first hand to the students the limitations that the Welland Canal imposes on international shipping in the Great Lakes. Also, it was fascinating to hear the students wondering about the ballast water, and making connections to their learning about invasive species.
After the excitement of the Lift Bridge and Ship Canal, we next explored the Maritime Visitor Center. We experienced an excellent program about the Soo Locks, and were disappointed that our Edmund Fitzgerald program was cancelled, due to a family emergency for one of the Visitor Center rangers. We explored the exhibits and learned more about the history of shipping, the economic impact of the lakes, and the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in maintaining access to the ports. We also enjoyed the scavenger hunt provided by the rangers.
We boarded the bus for our next stop, the Hartley Nature Center. We hiked to the top of Rock Knob, which gave us a great view of Lake Superior and the cities of Duluth and Superior. We also were able to experience some of the geology of the Canadian Shield first hand.
It was time to travel to our home for the night, The Great Lakes Aquarium. We explored the exhibits, experienced the touch pools, and one of the huge highlights, were able to get acquainted with the six different types of sturgeon in the sturgeon touch pool.
Our students were also able to continue their invasive species research, watch the otters play, and learn more about the formation geologic history of the Great Lakes.
After a restful (!) night, we were up early to reflect on our learning from the day before, as well as do a bit of shopping in the aquarium gift shop.
We were then on our way to the North Shore Scenic Railroad. We toured the exhibits, learned about the unique immigration history of Duluth, and then boarded train for a two hour ride up through Duluth, getting a very unique vantage point of Lake Superior.
Finally, our last stop was at Amnicon Falls State Park, where we took a very brief hike, and enjoyed our last meal together on the trip.
The bus ride back home was very quiet. The students learned and experienced so much! Thank you, Sea Grant and The Center for Great Lakes Literacy for helping to make this trip possible.
In Their Own Words:
Prediction: Kendra: “I believe I am going to see a lot of fish. I also believe I am going to lots of fun with my friends. I am really excited because this is my first time going to Duluth. I am really excited to see new things, and go the aquarium. But when we get there I am going to show Integrity and do the right thing.”
UW Superior: Lily: “One career I may be interested in would be teaching. I am interested in teaching because I am comfortable talking in front of people. I also enjoy working with little kids. The Habit of Scholarship I feel would be most important in college would be Grit. I use Grit at AV-W working hard to finish challenging work.”
Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center: Miranda: “How did people build such amazing machinery, back in the olden days? Some of the amazing machinery was the huge Laker that 4th grade saw, and the Lift bridge that the 4th grade saw.”
Great Lakes Aquarium: Maya: “I will never forget the aquarium, like the waterfall, the animals and sleeping. It was fun! It did not even look close to what I thought, it was even better! I learned that Bob the Python adjusts to the heat of your body temp.” Allison: “I learned that most underwater animals don’t have eyelids.”
North Shore Scenic Railroad: Nahla: I loved this train excursion! To start with, this was my first train ride. Also, at the last car of the train had no walls, so it was open and kind of scary. Last but not least, I’m glad I went on the train ride.” Mason: “I will never forget the train museum. One train in there was my favorite. It was a big plow train, and I loved playing in it pretending I was driving. Even some friends joined in.”
All photos unless otherwise noted by Susan Jurries and Perry Smith