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Puget Sound trip awaits Breidablik students this Spring

BREIDABLIK — It’s a journey that will take the Breidablik sixth grade class around Puget Sound — literally.

The eldest Bears at the elementary school will be undertaking an adventure later this school year that will see them canoe their way around Kitsap Peninsula, starting in Port Gamble for a total of about 165 miles.

But that’s not all. They’ll be doing so in a 36-foot long Native American Coast Salish canoe — one they’ll build themselves. Sixth grade teacher Mike Brennan, along with Breidablik sixth grade teachers Terry Martin, Misty Hernandez and Robin Breakey will work together to help students carve the canoe and prepare for the trip.

Brennan, who thought of the idea to circumnavigate the peninsula two years ago, said students will be learning a variety of skills, as well as information about the area’s past while studying the area’s native history.

“Our kids will get to know about the tribes by studying their culture this way,” Brennan said.

Coined the “Expedition for Understanding,” the voyage will be undertaken in 15-mile increments on weekends beginning in late April. The canoe will hold 13 and students in the entire sixth grade class will rotate through on each leg of the journey so everyone is included.

No detail will be spared, Brennan said, as each leg of the trip will be mapped out beforehand and tide and weather information will also be factored in.

Though the sixth graders will be charting the course, Brennan said he expects to begin and end in Port Gamble. A possible route would see the sixth graders traveling south along Hood Canal and cutting over the small isthmus that separates the Puget Sound and the canal at Belfair. They could then head north in the Puget Sound before making the turn back around Foulweather Bluff to the starting point.

The trip will not only help students learn about the unique cultures along the Kitsap Peninsula but also skills of teamwork, Brennan said.

“It’s about understanding the traditions of our place,” he explained. “But also learning about ourselves.”

A local artist and carver will be helping design and carve the Coast Salish canoe the sixth graders will use for the journey. Breidablik Librarian Mary Fox has donated the cedar trees that will be used in its creation.

Breidablik’s sixth grade is a part of a University of Washington curriculum called “Canoes upon Our Water,” sponsored by by the Math, Engineering and Science Achievement Program. The author of the curriculum is Dr. Nan McNutt, who will also be working with the students and teachers.

Still needed for the journey is fiberglass and two-part epoxy hardware for the canoe, a boat trailer and truck, support and safety boats to travel with the canoe on the journey and drivers and a ground crew to help out, Brennan mentioned.

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