Nearly 400 students and teachers experience a floating classroom on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

Young student paddle a canoe.
Students enjoy a floating classroom during the canoe mobile event at Columbia Crossing.

NPS photo

The trail’s visitor contact station at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage and Columbia Crossing hosted 382 student participants from two school districts in two days of fun and learning on the Susquehanna River. Fifth-grade students from Title I schools learned about trail themes including Susquehannock Indians, water quality, and healthy habitats.

National Parks Conservation Association donors provided transportation funding and staff conducted a field activity using a watershed model. Wilderness Inquiry provided their Canoemobile experience, allowing everyone to paddle the trail. For many students, this was their first time paddling on the water. Susquehanna Heritage and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission collaborated on interpretation about American Indians on the Susquehanna and brought a replica dugout canoe. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources brought live mussels and eels to show and touch. Three Chesapeake Conservation Corps interns assisted. Thank you notes from students were revealing: “I learned a lot about water life and not to pollute the water.” “I liked when we got to pet the eels.” “I had no idea how to canoe and you taught me.” “It probably is going to be my best field trip ever.”

Media representatives spent several hours documenting this collaborative partnership opportunity supporting many of the same students who had visited the Zimmerman Center a year earlier as part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative. You can read the article in the York Dispatch newspaper and watch the terrific video.