MYRTLE CREEK — Riddle science teacher Beverly Scott and Riddle math teacher Deniece Thompson took a month to travel across the United States and parts of Canada, exploring museums and natural landmarks to help incorporate in their teachings back home.
The trip, done mostly by train, was made possible thanks to a Funds for Teachers fellowship through The Ford Family Foundation.
“We both liked the idea of train travel,” Scott said. Thompson said the two had talked about doing a trip two years ago, but they were unable to get dates to work for both of them.
On the Amtrak train to Minnesota, they met a young truck driver, Cory. His truck had earlier struck a moose, and while his truck was undergoing repairs, he took a train home.
Scott and Thompson told Cory about their journey and that they were on their way to the Science Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota, home of a Math Moves exhibit.
Later at the St. Paul museum, they ran into the same truck driver, who they said was having a blast exploring the interactive exhibits.
Cory was just one of the many people the two teachers connected with on the train and told about their journey.
In fact, when they arrived in Chicago they went to a store to create business cards with information about Funds for Teachers, The Ford Family Foundation, their personal blogs and the social media sites they were using to post information about the trip.
“We met a lot of teachers, hopefully, some will apply to do this in the future,” Scott said. “This opportunity would not have been available if not for The Ford Family Foundation. It’s nice they were recognizing the need for teachers to expand their knowledge.”
They visited at least 30 different sites during the trip.
“The fellowship is for enriching the level of knowledge for teachers and this definitely did that,” Scott said. “The experiences, as rushed as they were, provided us with an expanded mindset.”
People along the way were also helpful in explaining more about the area, the food, the history, and anything else Scott and Thompson wanted to know.
“I grew up here and I want to do more in Oregon and encourage kids to get out more,” Thompson said.
Scott said she was going to try to go out at least once a month to explore something in Oregon.
They left Oregon via Portland, where they explored the Shanghai Tunnels, the Chinese Gardens and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. While the teachers agreed that the Shanghai Tunnels were disappointing and the Chinese Gardens were beautiful, it was the Jewish museum that made a lasting impact — because it branched out to equity and acceptance of tribes such as the Cow Creek Tribe and focused specifically on Oregon.
“We left there very touched,” Scott said. It was one of the first unexpected things they experienced during the trip.
An unexpected stop along the way was Campobello Island, a small island in Canada that connects to the mainland of Maine via a bridge. It was a favorite spot for both teachers.
Scott said her main goal was to see the Bay of Fundy, which she has incorporated in many of her lesson plans, but she had no idea how beautiful the island would be.
“I love the wildlife component,” Scott said. “I taught marine biology and I picked up stuff that I could’ve used this year, but for the future will share with other teachers.”
Both said they hope to return and make time for a tea where Eleanor Roosevelt’s historical impact on America and the area would be discussed.
Thompson, who loves lighthouses, was intrigued to find out that despite being on Canadian soil the U.S. Coast Guard takes care of the lighthouses on the island.
“It’s near to see a joint sharing between countries,” Thompson said.
Because of their journey by train, Scott and Thompson had to pack light and were unable to bring back everything. So they were able to bring back a map of the lighthouses, salt they mined in Kansas, sea shells from the Bay of Fundy (both American and Canadian), a yucca plant from New Mexico and a sticker.
“We had to pack real light,” Scott said. “I feel a little guilty because I brought nothing back for my kids.”
To read more about their trip and their experiences, read their blog at www.trekacrosstheus.com.