National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
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Big River Journey

Description: In its seventh year, the Big River Journey, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, provides students and teachers, grades 4-6, opportunities to directly explore the science and heritage of the Mississippi River. Through riverboat field trips, teacher workshops, and classroom activities, the Big River Journey connects participants to the river and its watershed, and offers a science-based foundation that supports river stewardship.

A pre-trip workshop is required of teachers participating in Big River Journey field trips. At the workshop, teachers learn to conduct science-based classroom activities that relate to each field trip learning station. A 3-ring binder of classroom activities, resources and logistical information, is provided to teachers at the workshop.

Big River Journey strives to include a diverse student audience by recruiting underserved groups and by providing scholarships that support participation. It is designed to address state and district learning requirements.

Geographic area covered: Students and teachers participate from the St. Paul/Minneapolis metropolitan area. The riverboat departs from St. Paul and Minneapolis and travels within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MISS) for about one and a half-hours.

List of partners and relationships: The National Park Service coordinates Big River Journey. The primary partners are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Padelford Packet Boat Co., Inc. The secondary partners are Friends of the Mississippi River, Hamline University, Center for Global Environmental Education, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, and the Minnesota Historical Society.

Accomplishments to date: For the 2002-2003 school year, Big River Journey had over 4,500 participants. Positive evaluations by teachers rate the program at on average 9.8 on a scale of 10 (highest score).

Key success factors:

Significant commitment of resources by NPS and key partners.

Leadership, creativity and enthusiasm of NPS staff in coordinating the program.

Strong partnering skills by all of the partners.

Partners have mutual goals and visions.

Significant commitment to planning the trips, educational materials, and the teacher's workshops.

Frustrations: High flood waters in May can cancel trips and result in disappointment for students and teachers. NPS loses some visibility in this complex program of multiple partners. With cutbacks at the state level, partners may not have the funding for continued participation. The program is so popular that we have resorted to having a drawing of the interested schools to fill the limited number of trips. Just because a person knows their job, doesn't necessarily mean he/she knows how to teach.

Most important lessons learned to date:

In order to be successful, program needs strong commitment of resources from NPS and partners.

Partners must be recognized for their work and contributions.

Members of the partnership value what each other brings in skills, knowledge, and resources.

What would you do differently next time: Negotiate an agreement early in the partnership with the riverboat company.

Suggested resource materials: Teacher's Guide, pamphlets announcing trips and Big River Journey Art Contest. Big River Journey truck.

For more information:

Name: JoAnn Kyral
Affiliation: Superintendent, MISS Education
Phone/Fax: 651-290-4160

Name: Lyndon Torstenson
Affiliation: Education Program Specialist, MISS
Phone/Fax: 651-290-3030, ext. 232

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements __; Facility Management __; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services __; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources __; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services __; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning __; Tourism __; Community Relations __;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: JoAnn Kyral Date posted: 8/4/03
Phone: 651-290-4160

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