Saturday, May 30, 2015

Food Prep

by Nick Peterson

Deh Cho Canoe Expedition

Taylor Fredin and Nick Peterson are paddling 1,500 miles across the Mackenzie River watershed.  The canoe trip will take them down the Slave River, around the South Shore of Great Slave Lake, and down Canada’s longest river: the Mackenzie. They will be exploring northern culture and environmental issues in and around the watershed.

Taylor and I buying bulk food at Costco
Food Prep 

Last week I learned what 70 days of food looks like for me. It's a lot. Males in the U.S. consume 2,475 calories per day on average (Center for Disease Control). That is 173,250 calories over a 70-day period. Paddling every day means I will need to consume a lot more, probably around 3500 calories a day. Those are just numbers. Packing 70 days of food was an opportunity to give those numbers meaning.  Among other things, I plan to eat 16 pounds of nuts, 144 ounces of peanut butter, and 24 ounces of Nutella.  That’s a lot of nuts!
Preparing to repackage food
Taylor and I spent the last three days packing food for our trip. We bought in bulk and repacked all our food into reusable zip lock bags.  We portioned the food to make sure we have the correct amount for each week. For example, for a two-week supply we put five cups of lentils into a one-gallon zip lock bag. Not enough food would result in some very hungry days. Too much food, and we are carrying extra bulk and weight. 

As followers of the Leave No Trace principles, we will carry out all the trash we bring. Food is sold packaged in cardboard, one-time-use plastic bags, foil, and plastic bottles.That is stuff that we do not want to carry. The zip lock bags reduce trash while keeping our food fresh and dry. Finally, we packed all our food into smell proof barrels.  The barrels help deter Grizzly Bears and other animals that might want to dine with us.

Getting ready to pack 70 days of food into bear barrels

Thursday, May 28, 2015

1500 Miles in the Mackenzie River Watershed

by Taylor Fredin
The Crew- Nick Peterson and Taylor Fredin

     In 5 days, Nick Peterson and I will have finished packing our gear, measuring out food, and finalizing emergency plans. In 5 days, Nick and I will load the last of our packs into the vehicle and check to make sure the canoe is secure one more time. In 5 days, we’ll drive away from the Twin Cities and begin our journey North. Right now, it still doesn't seem real that we are actually leaving for a 70-day canoe trip in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

     This dream has been in the making for 3 years. Wanderlust set in for us both at the end of summer 2012, after we had guided Boundary Waters trips. It was tough to go back to school after being outside for an entire summer. So, to get through the day-to-day of city life, we began planning a big adventure. We both needed something on the horizon, something big, beautiful and wild. That desire for adventure morphed into this trip after reading about similar expeditions, including Eric Severeid’s famous excursion to Hudson’s Bay. 
Our route- over 1500 miles in the Northwest Territories

    Our trip begins in Fort Smith. The town is on the Slave River on the border of the Northwest Territories and Alberta, Canada. The town is just downriver from the Rapids of the Drowned- an infamous 19 mile stretch of roaring V and VI rapids. We hope to catch a glimpse of professional kayakers here.

     From Fort Smith we’ll paddle north on the Slave River. This river flows into Great Slave Lake. The river delta is supposed to be beautiful, and I’m excited to come out from the river onto the lake. 

     Great Slave Lake is about the size of Lake Erie and can be a formidable opponent to paddlers. Big winds and bad weather may make this part of our route time consuming and tedious. Nonetheless, there is something exciting about being on a big body of water, and we’re counting on a canoe cover, common sense, and a bit of luck to keep us safe here.
     After about 200 miles on the southern shore of Great Slave, we’ll reach the Mackenzie (Deh Cho) River. The Mackenzie is the longest river in Canada and its native name (Deh Cho) translates to “Big River.” The Deh Cho is 1080 miles long and its watershed covers 697,000 square miles. This river is massive and can even accommodate barge traffic. 

     The last leg of our trip is on the Beaufort Sea, a marginal sea on the Arctic Ocean. From the Mackenzie River delta, we will paddle to a small Inuvialuk hamlet called Tuktoyaktuk. We are excited to see the ocean wildlife (hopefully not polar bears) and nervous to be on such a  big body of water.
     We are both looking forward to hitting the road and beginning our big adventure, and are excited to share what we see along the way! We will post updates when we stop in towns with libraries. Follow our adventure as we post to Sustainable Commons under "Water & Watersheds."

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Mapping Climate Change Beliefs

by Edward Hessler

U.S. Temperature Record 1950 to 2009 (Raw Image)
By U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered about the percent of adults in the United States who think global warming is happening, risk perceptions and support for various global warming policies?

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communications has some fascinating and useful maps on the perceptions of adults on climate change.You can view the Yale Climate Opinion Maps at four scales: national, state, congressional district and county.  There are several maps in three groups: beliefs, risk perceptions and policy support.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Environmental Awareness at La Universidad de Murcia

by Steven Beardsley

Wastebasket for cardboard, paper, newspapers, notes, etc.
Wastebasket for glass, bottles, jars, and cans
Studying at a "Green Campus" in Spain
I’ve received the unique opportunity to study in Spain at the University of Murcia from the end of January to the end of June. This gives me the chance to explore Spain and see how the country deals with issues around the environment, environmental education, and water. One of the first things I’ve noticed since arriving is that the university prides itself on being a “green campus.” During the first day of orientation, our coordinator talked about finding different documents online to minimize the amount of paper used. Additionally, much like Hamline University, La Universidad de Murcia and the city of Murcia have established different waste containers for dealing with a variety of waste.

Diagram showing flushing for wastes versus liquids

Color-Coded Wastebaskets for separating waste
At the university there are colored wastebaskets that correspond to different types of waste. The wastebaskets are colorful with different sketches of cartoon people on the front. Brown corresponds to “organic waste” that gets composted; green corresponds to different kinds of glass such as bottles; yellow corresponds to different kinds of metal and plastics, and blue corresponds to paper and cardboard. I especially like the design of the wastebaskets since they make sorting trash fun and memorable. The university also uses dual flushing like some of the restrooms at Hamline University, where pushing in one direction uses less water for liquids.

Conserving Water & Battery Recycling Stands
"Put used batteries here to make Murcia greener each time"
There are nice messages that talk about the importance of responsible water usage. In addition to the wastebaskets and flushing at the university, there are large green stands where people can recycle used batteries. This particular one is at the University of La Merced, but I have also seen several others around the city. Along the city streets are also large color-coded bins that correspond to specific kinds of waste. Like at the university, green is for general garbage while yellow is for plastics and glass. An interesting fact is that garbage actually does not get collected during the morning like in the United States but during the late evening around 11 p.m. to midnight. This became apparent to me when I was trying to sleep and heard the garbage truck going down the street.

"Water is an essential resource for life"

Anyway, Spain also benefits from having the most sun of all European countries, so they take advantage of this by line drying their clothes and not using dryers. This is true even during winter when it gets colder. My experience so far is that clothes take longer to dry in the winter (about 2-3 days), but it’s much more energy efficient. I have also heard about homes in rural areas that take advantage of solar energy, but there is some controversy since that creates more competition with electrical companies. All in all, I feel like la Universidad de Murcia and the city itself is very conscious about dealing with certain kinds of waste in addition to using energy in an efficient manner. I hope to learn more about the environmental initiatives of the city in the later months but otherwise this looks like a good start.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Gem Found in a Bookstore Bin

by Edward Hessler
Image from
Many years ago I stopped in a corner bookstore to browse ("waste" some time after class), especially the remainders in the amply stuffed book bins throughout the store. I purchased a book on an elementary school in New Zealand which has become one of my all time favorite books. Elwyn Richardson's masterpiece, In the Early World seems unknown. I've only met one other person, and then only in 2013 (and then on a blog), who had ever heard of it, much less seen or read it. The blog's author was known to have given it to students. I hope some of you know it.

In the forward, a New Zealand educational official accurately described the book as "...a vivid picture of a school...(which)...functioned as a community of artists and scientists who turned a frank and searching gaze on all that came within their ambit." Richardson remained mostly a mystery to me until the Wiki era. What I knew is that he came to Oruaiti as both a scientist, to study molluscs, and also to work on his own ideas about teaching and learning. Margaret McDonald in her Ph.D. thesis about him put it another way: he wanted to teach "away from the immediate gaze inspectors and colleagues." Richardson stayed to teach mixed classes of Maori and Caucasian students for thirteen years.

The book is the final report required of granting this school experimental status. It it not the serious document one would expect and which would be shelved with "completed" ticked off on the sheet authorizing the school. However, it was well received and had important, long-term effects on progressive education in New Zealand.

Richardson based his curriculum on children's interests in math, social studies, geography, literature, nature study, science and English.  His classroom was a gallery of glorious art and writing and it is gloriously represented in his book. It was the children's writing and art that claimed me. Richardson had strong ideas about human artistic ability as well as its development in young children. What this school offered was an integrated program of art and science.

Jean Benderswrote an excellent commentary for the ASCD in 1971 on using Richardson's classroom methods in American classrooms. And these ideas still have force.

The book's title is from a poem by a student named Irene.

The blue heron stands in the early world.

A Simple Cosmic Ray Detector

by Edward Hessler

Sean Carroll, is a theoretical physicist/cosmologist at CalTech and has been a long-time blogger (several iterations).

A recent entry is on how to construct a cosmic ray detector. Carroll introduces this lecture/demonstration by saying, "Sorry, I have no idea how to build a cloud chamber, I'm just a theorist." But Carroll found someone, who does and in a lecture-demonstration shows us how.

About his blog, he writes, "I'm a scientist, but this is absolutely not a Science Blog. It's just my blog, writing about things I like to write about. It's not a news service by any stretch of the imagination." Sometimes, he does write about heavy duty theory and I benefit from that through his explanations and the comments of physicists (not that I get it all!). 

Professor Carroll has been an Emma Kay Malmstrom lecturer in physics at Hamline University..

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bridging the Achievement Gap --Part II

by Edward Hessler

Recently, I posted a piece about the environmental and science education work of  St. Paul Public Schools teacher, Timothy Chase. I missed a few things. There is more to say.

In the May 2015 issue of the Park Bugle, a community newpaper serving St. Anthony Park, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale and Como Park, there is an article about the May 20 dedication, of the outdoor classroom in which Mr. Chase works with his students. He is to be the keynote speaker.

By Visitor7 (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
And I want you to get a sense of this outdoor classroom, one I bike through occasionally in spring, summer and fall. The Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom is small (and beautiful). While only about 7.3 ha (18 acres) it offers a lot for environmental learning to area teachers and their classes as well as interested adults.  At the website above (still under development) you will find a few pictures, a map of the site, self-guided tours, tools for educators, data about the woodland, and area historical data.

And somehow, I did not mention that for his work, Mr. Chase was named the the 2014 Formal Educator of the Year  by the Minnesota Association of Environmental Education.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Bridging the Achievement Gap

by Edward Hessler

John Shepard, who writes on water, river and watersheds for this Sustainable Commons recently filmed a story of a class taught by science teacher Timothy Chase of Murray Middle School, St. Paul, MN.

A few years ago, Chase was provided an opportunity to teach a "dream class." He didn't linger with his answer and his dream became a reality. His target audience was students caught in the achievement gap. Chase turned his opportunity into an opportunity for students to learn that they had never experienced.

About the video. First, enjoy it.

Then you might consider it as an example of what could be done by using a local site and, if available, an environmental learning center (here, that site, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, is many kilometers from school) as well as the classroom to help young learners who have not had much success in science, engage in science and environmental study.

The video is an inspiring and informative story of a dream that became a reality for this classroom teacher and his students.