Take me to the river: Community Ed trip gets students out on Shell Rock River

Published 9:01 pm Friday, June 16, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The smoke cleared up just in time for students to take a canoe trip down Shell Rock River Friday morning. This was the second trip of the month, with the trips offered the first, second and third Friday of June and July.

“They get to go out and explore a little bit of the Shell Rock River while canoeing down it,” said Albert Lea Community Education Executive Director John Double, adding the trip was part of an exploration program made possible through federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and was free to participate in.

The goal for these trips was allowing students to experience the outdoors and perhaps have an adventure.

Email newsletter signup

“Just sharing the love of the outdoors,” he said. “Anything we can do to help our students enjoy the outdoors, learn lifetime activities, maybe find a new hobby that they enjoy for the rest of their lives. Those are the types of things that really go with what Community Ed likes to do as far as that life-long learning.”

Double said some of the students participating were looking to experience something new, while others wanted to improve their skills simply because they enjoyed the activity.

According to Double, this was the second year the canoe trips were offered.

Students left Hawthorne Elementary School at 9 a.m. and returned around 1 p.m.

Canoes, paddling equipment and life vests were provided to the roughly dozen students.

Based on feedback from the first trip, students had a good time and there was a lot of interest in canoeing.

Double himself experienced canoeing during trips with family and friends while in high school, experiences he described as “neat.”

“It was something I had never done,” he said. “While our family had a canoe and we’d go out on the lake, I had never done a river trip.”

Students who participate in one of the three trips will have the opportunity to go down the Root River the fourth Friday of June. Canoe trips down the Shell Rock River are also available the first, second and third Fridays in July, with a trip to the Root River the fourth Friday.

Double noted the trips filled up quickly.

“The students are really embracing the opportunities to do things like this, so that’s wonderful,” he said.

He also thanked staff for putting the trips together, as well as the students who signed up.

“I hope they all have a great time the next couple of months,” he said.

Alex Hagen, senior lead staff at the rock gym and Brookside boat house, led the trip.

“I thought [the trip] went really well,” he said. “Really, our goal is exposing kids to new things.

“We got them out on [Albert Lea Lake], the wind was blowing a little bit, so they learned how to navigate in a little more adverse conditions, which builds character and it builds skill.”

Hagen admitted he had some previous experience with his family at Myre-Big Island State Park, though it wasn’t something he did frequently.

“It’s cool that I’ve been able to move into sharing that experience with others,” he said.

William Tenneson helped oversee the trip.

“It’s one of the more fun opportunities I think working through Community Ed to just get out, be on the lake, be on the Shell Rock, which I don’t really have the time to in my normal day-to-day life,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to work with the kids in the area and get them out doing it as well.”

As a kid, Tenneson did canoeing and kayaking.

Kira Kafka, who is going into sixth grade, was one of the students participating.

“I just thought it would be fun to just get out of the house and do something,” she said.

This was not her first time on a canoe trip through Community Education, and she planned to take the Root River trip offered the fourth Friday in June.

“They did a great job helping,” she said. “I feel like they should do it next year too just so … people can come and enjoy it.”

She also had advice for anyone thinking about going on a canoe trip.

“Bring snacks,” she said.

Students interested in signing up should visit their website at https://alschools.ce.eleyo.com/ or call 507-379-5317. Students must be between 8 and 18.