Kids and Canoes on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail collaborates with partners to bring nearly 400 students out onto the trail. The trail’s visitor contact stations in Pennsylvania, the Zimmerman Center for Heritage and Columbia Crossing River Trails Center, hosted 382 students in partnership with National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Wilderness Inquiry, and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Fifth grade students from two school districts over two days had fun learning about Susquehannock Indians, water quality, and how to paddle a canoe. The kids that were able to attend this field trip were part of the Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) program in the spring of 4th grade at the Zimmerman Center where they first learned about the Susquehannock Indians and how to know the health of the river.

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In the fall of their 5th grade year they built on the things that they had learned and experienced the water trail first hand. Most of these kids live within a mile of the river and had never been on it before. NPCA funded the transportation for the event through donors and provided a watershed model activity. Wilderness Inquiry based out of Minneapolis provided their Canoemobile experience teaching the kids about water safety, paddling, and getting onto the water. Susquehanna Heritage and NPS collaborated to teach about American Indians using a replica dugout canoe and painted gourds. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources brought live eels and mussels to teach about how they are a determining factor in the health of a river. Each child could touch the eels and each one of them was boasting about the experience at the end of the day circle.

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There were thank you notes from the teachers revealing how important this experience was for their students. Teachers said:
“This was a rare opportunity for our students, and we thank you for providing it for them.”
“We can't say enough!!! Very professional, pleasant and knowledgeable staff... they made students and staff feel very comfortable!”

Students also sent thank you notes stating:
“I learned a lot about water life and not to pollute the water.”
“I liked when we got to pet the eels.”
“I had no idea how to canoe and you taught me.”
“It probably is going to be my best field trip ever.”

The major television news station in the region spent nearly a whole day at the event learning about each of the land stations and being sure to capture the smiles on the faces of the students as they returned from their excursion on the water. The York Dispatch also covered the event and created a great video and article capturing the event on the water and from the air.

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