MARQUETTE - Gilbert Elementary School third-graders took learning beyond the classroom Thursday with a field trip to the Escanaba River.
In fact, the students are hoping they may be able to set sail all the way to France.
Students from social studies teacher Connie Sather's classes wrapped up a unit centered around Holling Clancy Holling's book, "Paddle-to-the-Sea," by setting sail along the river a hand-carved canoe with the carving of a Native American boy inside.
A hand-carved canoe made by Gilbert Elementary School social studies teacher Connie Sather’s husband Scott, was sent down the Escanaba River recently by Sather’s third-grade students. The canoe was launched as part of a project that attempted to mirror the story-line of Holling Clancy Holling’s book, “Paddle-to-the-Sea.” (Connie Sather photo)
"We did (the same project) last year, so we decided to go ahead and continue on the tradition this year," Sather said.
The project is meant to mirror the book, which features a young Native American boy who carves a wooden model of a Native American in a canoe and releases it to sail through the Great Lakes, eventually makes its way out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Sather's project culminated with a wood figure made by her husband Scott being launched in the Escanaba River. Students watched from the bridge by the former Gwinn Middle School, noting the canoe's progress as it moved along the river and sailed out of town.
Sather said her students love talking about where their little canoe might end up.
"They really enjoy doing something like this. It's a little more hands-on learning," Sather said. "They love watching on the map, seeing the route and where (the canoe) can go, and all the different spots he can go to."
The canoe also has a figure of a Native American boy sitting inside, who will hopefully paddle his way from Gwinn all the way out to the ocean.
In the book, the paddler travels to France, something the students hope their little paddler could also achieve one day.
"On the little canoe, (Scott) wood-burned a message on there, like the one in the book. 'I am paddling to the sea, if you find me, please send a message to Mrs. Sather's third-graders.' The school's address is on there," Sather said. "Hopefully, we'll hear from somebody that finds him or sees him at some point."
The project has the third-graders thinking about the way the water flows through the Great Lakes, and how that impacts Michigan and its history.
Sather said the unit also helps connect students from a small town in the relatively isolated Upper Peninsula with the rest of the world.
"I think it interests them more in social studies by getting them involved in something that shows them some geography and shows them how everything can kind of go from a small town like Gwinn all the way out to something really big, like the ocean," Sather said.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.