Friday, August 22, 2014

Paddle Forward is back!

           Hi everybody! I am excessively excited to kick off the 2014 Paddle Forward blog (not to mention the trip itself). My name is Mark Emmons, but you can refer to me as Blog Editor-in-Chief! Just kidding. But actually, I’ll be the main blogger during the month-long expedition, though the other five paddlers will also take turns at blog posts.

The purpose of this blog is twofold:
1) like a typical travel blog, I will update you with stories of our discoveries, encounters, triumphs, frustrations, etc. and
2) it will serve as a learning tool for the K-12 students who will be following our trip online. Ooooo, the power of blogging!

If you are reading this, you are wondering what’s going on with the trip! Well, we’re 15 days away from our September 6th launch date, and most preparations are in order. For the past month and a half, the whole crew (6 paddlers and 2 support team members) has been contacting schools, media, river town leaders, and other folks who might be able to help us during our travels. Our goal is to meet with as many people as possible who have some stake in the river. Why, you ask? Because we believe that the best way to get to know the Illinois River is by talking to the people who interact with it daily. Makes sense, right? Our hope is that these interviews will yield all sorts of educational insights for our adventure learning videos, where we’ll make connections between the different nuggets of knowledge that our interviewees give us. If you were following last fall’s Paddle Forward expedition down the Mississippi River, you may know that the paddlers were kept busy filming a documentary and covering a whole lot of miles. This year, the focus will be more strongly on adventure learning (for the sake of the children!) and the key to its success is in meeting interesting people.

Of course, to make our adventure learning efforts meaningful at all, we need students to participate. Thanks to fellow expeditioner/U of MN student/champion of champions, Jess Colbaugh, we already have 43 schools signed up to follow our expedition online! There is still room to register to be a River Ambassador school - more information at On top of that, we’ll be stopping at a number of schools along the way to visit classrooms in person. Another fellow expeditioner, Marissa Madej, is the mastermind behind these visits. I imagine that it will be the most exciting day of class ever! If you are involved in a school along the river that would want us to stop by, contact Marissa at

To kick it all off, the excitement will begin in Chicago. Wild River Academy founder Natalie Warren, who will sadly not be paddling with us on the river, has set up a big shebang for our Chicago sendoff. On September 7th, there will be a mass paddle through the city with local paddling groups, and speakers to follow. If you are in the Chicago area at the time, contact us at to join the fun! If you can’t join us, you can at least experience the glory online through all of our social media platforms coordinated by fellow expeditioner/social media queen, Lee Vue. You can follow us on Google +, Facebook, and Twitter.

That’s all for now. Now we wait. 15 days! 15 days! 15 days!