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GRPS kicks off 5th annual 'Canoemobile Paddling Experience' event

Students will paddle canoes on the Grand River, learn about the waterway, and participate in cultural history lessons.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — 8th graders from Grand Rapids Public Schools will take the classroom outside this week, as the 5th annual 'Canoemobile Paddling Experience' event kicks off.

Throughout the week, students will be participating in various outdoor activities; including paddling nine-passenger canoes on the Grand River, learning about the waterway, water quality testing, nature hiking, cultural history lessons and more.

'Wilderness Inquiry', a Minnesota-based outdoor education program, will host the event but for one instructor these waters are no stranger. 

"I was very excited to be on to go back to my home turf and show my co-workers what it's like where I grew up, and also to work with the kids in the area," said outdoor leader Tyler Bleeker.

Bleeker says, "Nature is for everyone. That's wilderness inquiries mission. So Grand Rapids has many beautiful parks, and we want to get the kids from the school system out to see the parks that they can go and visit anytime at all."

Park Director, David Marquardt was also at the event and says this program is a large part of the cities mission to teach students in new ways.

 "That was a big part of our mission, parks and recreation align very much with the schools and their curriculum and getting kids outside and in different learning experiences. So we're excited to be back here in our fifth year offering this once again," said Marquardt.

He also says that this may be the first time some of the students experience local parks, "bringing the kids up to this location, I think is really valuable from that standpoint. And then just getting them into a different part of city that they may not have been exposed to ever is really interesting as well," said Marquardt. 

About 1,000 students will visit Riverside Park this week, and program organizers say they hope to continue the event in the future.

"We've done this for five years, and this will be our fifth year, I anticipate this to be an ongoing program," said Marquardt, "We feel like this is a really important thing for the schools in the city to be doing together. That's why they invested in it. And our commitment in return was to ensure that we could do this long term and now we are doing that with our own funding, which I think is a testament to the partnership that was established early on."

While there were several important learning lessons provided to the students, they had a sweet treat of smores to end their day. 

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