Class expedition project makes a connection with the North Pole

POULSBO — Destination: Atlantis. Mode of transportation: submarine. Objective: logically plan, prepare and execute the expedition.

That’s a typical class project for West Sound Academy’s eighth grade humanities class as teacher Linn DeNesti tasked her students with accomplishing an adventure of a lifetime. Recently, the class finished their escapades of the mind.

“Our expeditions were only limited by our imaginations,” said student Erika Ballard.

But their imaginations had to be rooted in the real world of explorations.

In the midst of studying explorers like Lewis and Clark, DeNesti offered a class project of putting together an expedition to anywhere in the world. The only guideline was that the trip had to be logically sound in accordance to the historical facts the class had been studying.

The students were divided into small groups and spent six weeks preparing for their adventures, collecting crew, gear and food lists as well as personnel assignments and plans of action. Then they spent another six weeks acting out their adventure through journal entries.

“What I hope they got out of it was that they were able to imagine what’s possible in their life,” said WSA teacher and project co-organizer Julie Snyder. “The goals of the project were more pragmatic to think about actually what would it take (by) looking at historical fact.”

Students used references from historical Web sites, documents and adventures to help plan for what it would take to make it to their destination.

Then, a few weeks into the project’s planning stages, National Geographic magazine published an article that featured two of the world’s greatest solo explorers — Børge Ousland and Mike Horn — who were combining forces for the first time and planning to traverse the Arctic, adventuring to the North Pole through the darkness of the Arctic winter.

“It was really a fortunate coincidence,” Snyder said, noting the parallel timing between the North Pole adventure and the class project. “I thought, ‘Whoa, here’s two guys that are living it.’”

She took advantage of the World Wide Web and found the two modern-day explorers were hosting an Internet blog that Ousland would update via satellite phone along the journey.

Through the blog, the WSA students were able to communicate with the explorers while also following the adventure, utilizing both to better prepare for their own imaginary expeditions.

And while some of Ousland’s and Horn’s preparatory measures and gear list items matched up with WSA’s expedition elements, many of the students’ adventures took them on voyages through the ocean while Ousland and Horn trekked across frozen plains.

Each expedition was different but the goal of accomplishment remained the same.

“We traveled to Atlantis by submarine and found very pale (indigenous) people,” Margaret Carder said of her group’s adventure.

Another group traveled to South America and the Brazilian rainforest, while another group bounced from New Zealand to the French Guiana then to the Canary Islands and onto Ireland in search of rare items.

“Some of them were just crazy ... they had the most fun being really goofy with it and some had a lot of fun imagining situations of what they would encounter,” Snyder noted.

Each group had to keep record of their expedition through a calendar and a journal over the course of their “year-long” journey. The adventure took some minds far outside of the classroom meeting various indigenous peoples and seeing foreign animals and plant life.

“The most rewarding part was actually getting there,” Carder said.

“And getting back alive was nice, too!” added Kelsey Burns.

Just as the class finished up it’s projects and made their presentations, Ousland and Horn triumphed at the North Pole March 23, marking the end of a 61-day journey and first-ever hike through the arctic winter.

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