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In the summer of 1854, a spectacular Grand Excursion of riverboats steamed past Red Wing, MN on its way from Rock Island, IL to the rough outpost of St. Paul. Did Hamline University faculty cancel classes to watch this festive event? Did students gather and cheer as the boats chuffed past? History doesn’t tell us, but we do know that Minnesota’s first University is leading the next Grand Excursion.

The excursionists of 1854 were celebrating the completion of the first rail line to the Mississippi River. Over the next century, industrial sites fouled the waters and ecological systems were driven to the brink of collapse. In late June of 2004, another grand flotilla of riverboats will steam north from Rock Island, IL to the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, celebrating the renaissance of the living river and a commitment to educate a new generation of river stewards. The heart of the education effort is the River Exploration Trunk program- collections of resources that help K-12 teachers and learners investigate “how we live in relationship to the river.” A free trunk was offered to every school in every county along the grand flotilla route. In early October 2003, 788 schools received their trunk, a gift from the Grand Excursion, Inc. Nearly 500 trunks were delivered to schools in Minnesota, including at least one to every school in the St. Paul and Minneapolis school districts.

Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) led the development of the River Exploration Trunks as a central part of the Graduate School of Education’s contribution to the university’s upcoming 150th anniversary celebration.

A diverse group of teachers and teaching and learning specialists reviewed over 250 different resources submitted by national, regional and local organizations. The trunks embody CGEE’s commitment to environmental literacy and Hamline University’s pioneering work in teacher education by honoring teachers’ expertise in how best to engage students’ interests. The materials in the trunks offer resources to support and enhance teachers’ existing practice as hundreds of thousands of students turn their eyes to the river. Four grade level trunks contain distinct collections of resources for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

The trunks have inspired the education community all along the river to create exemplary education projects, including:

  • An opera at Ramsey Elementary Fine Arts Magnet;
  • A storm drain mapping GIS project at Como High School;
  • Crawl-through dioramas of the river’s ecological systems made out of refrigerator boxes at Battle Creek Elementary Environmental Magnet School;
  • Comparative studies of the cultural and biological diversity of the river at World Cultures Elementary.
  • A metro-wide Mississippi River Fair in May of 2004 that will showcase student work.

To see the contents of the trunk, and learn more, go to: http://cgee.hamline.edu/ge04guide

Center for Global Environmental Education
Hamline University Graduate School of Education
1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104-1284
Phone: 651-523-2480 Fax: 651-523-3041
© 2001 CGEE. All Rights Reserved.