Dozens of sixth graders from North Junior High School in Saint Cloud arrived at Lake Sagatagan ready to canoe and learn about Minnesota history from a “floating classroom.” They were excitedly murmuring to each other as they walked from a campus parking lot at Saint John’s University down to the beach. Once on the sand, they moved into a large circle so that Wilderness Inquiry’s outdoor leaders could tell them about the day’s activities and get them ready for their lessons on the water.
Saint John’s Outdoor University, also known as “Outdoor U,” provided land-based stations where the students learned orienteering skills and about solar energy. Wilderness Inquiry taught the kids canoeing and Minnesota history. Wilderness Inquiry outdoor leaders shared stories about the Voyageurs and how they navigated in canoes and worked in the fur trade business. The day’s activities were made possible in part by Legacy Funding, which supports Wilderness Inquiry in an effort to connect more than 7,500 youth to their local lands and waterways through place-based education and hands-on outdoor experiences.
Back on the beach that morning, a sixth grader named Maya nervously told her Wilderness Inquiry boat captain, Claire, something personal. She said she was scared of going out on the water. Claire let Maya know the canoes rarely tipped and assured her the group they would be OK in the boat. Maya then volunteered to sit in the lead spot of the Voyageur canoe. The crew took off around Lake Sagatagan and played games as they paddled. Claire told students about the lily pads, pointed out a beaver dam, and identified different trees. After more than an hour paddling around the lake, the group neared the beach where they would offload. Before they got there, Claire asked Maya if she was still afraid of going out on the water. Maya responded with a resounding no.