Have you ever experienced something ordinary turn into something incredible? We have. A few months ago, Karie, one of our second year interns, crafted a boat from a block of wood. It started out as just a hobby; she wanted to improve her whittling skills. But, the more time she spent with the little boat, the more she grew attached, and before we knew it, the boat had a nice coat of paint, some little oars, and even a name.
Now, I’ll agree that Paddle (the boat) was a cute little boat, and that Karie’s whittling skills were quite impressive, but when Karie told us that Paddle could float, we were all a bit skeptical. I mean seriously, it was only her first attempt at boat carving and Paddle’s sides weren’t very tall; we all thought there was no chance this little thing could float. Karie, determined to prove us wrong because she believed in the little boat, responded with, “Challenge accepted.”
The next day, while we were preparing our students to conduct the phosphate test during Journey to the River, Karie marched up and stuck Paddle right in the Cuyahoga. To our surprise, Karie was right, Paddle did float. Paddle floated right through the riffles and straight on downstream!
Unfortunately, no one was able to grab Paddle before he floated away. Fortunately, Karie had put her contact information on the bottom of the boat so we all had some hope that we would one day see Paddle again.
A few days later, Karie got a call from a student in Cleveland, explaining that a little boat had washed up on the shore of Lake Erie. Karie was ecstatic that Paddle had made it all the way up the Cuyahoga, and that someone had found him safe and sound. At first, Karie told the student to send Paddle home; she had missed the little guy and she had been awfully worried these past few days. But, then it occurred to Karie that if Paddle could make it all the way up the Cuyahoga to Lake Erie, Paddle could probably go even further. She knew it was risky, but Karie told the student to put Paddle back into Lake Erie’s waters.
After a few weeks passed, we all thought Lake Erie had gotten the best of Paddle. Maybe his little gunwales weren’t strong enough after all. Shipwrecks are common on the Great Lakes; maybe the waves were just too big. However, on a groggy Monday morning in the office, Karie got a call from a woman in Kingston, Canada! Paddle had made it all the way over to Lake Ontario. How he survived Niagara Falls, we will never know.
The woman from Kingston reported that Paddle was missing one of his little oars and that his paint was a little bit chipped along the edges. Karie was concerned for the little guy, but after surviving the waterfall and making it this far, Karie knew Paddle could keep on going. She told the woman to put Paddle back in the water. And so the journey continued.
Two whole months passed before we heard anything. Though everyone at the EEC was convinced Paddle was gone for good, Karie held on to a shred of hope. She had faith in the little boat and knew he was destined for more great adventures. Paddle was probably just hanging out with pirates or something. At least, that’s what he did in her dreams.
Then, on Friday, right before we were about to leave for the weekend, Karie checked her email. Amongst the spam and millions of coupon offers, she spied an email written in French. It read, “J’ai trouvé un petit bateau nommé Paddle à Bordeaux.” Paddle was still alright! After translating the email, Karie learned that little Paddle had made it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean over to Bordeaux, France. This little boat was truly amazing.
At this point, Karie figured she had tested Paddle’s luck enough. Already, the boat had made it up the Cuyahoga to Cleveland, over Niagara Falls to Lake Ontario, out the St Lawrence Sea Way, and across the Atlantic Ocean to France. Karie asked Bruno, the Frenchman, to wrap Paddle up in a box, and send him back home to the EEC. Once Bruno discovered the incredible journey the boat had made, he was happy to help.
Just last week, Karie and Paddle were reunited. He looked a little worse for the wear; both of Paddle’s oars were missing, his paint was mostly gone, and he was missing a few splinters of wood. But, he had survived the journey, and that’s really all that mattered.
Thinking back, it’s funny to think we questioned Paddle’s ability to float. His feats went well above and beyond flotation. He now has a fresh coat of paint and brand new little oars. We all admire him as he sits on the corner of Karie’s desk, reminding all of us of the incredible journey.
We’ve all learned a great deal from Karie and that little boat. Even when most of us were in disbelief, Karie never doubted Paddle for a second. And, despite his stature, Paddle was able to take on challenges as big as the ocean. What’s also cool is to realize that all of the water in the world is connected. Each individual can make an impact to our water, no matter where you live.
Perhaps we can share this story with kids at Global Festival! Global connections to water are exactly what teach about. Visit us for the Resident Program, and you may get to hear Karie recount the tale. And, if you’re really lucky, you may even get a chance to hold Paddle in your hands. How neat is that?!
**This is one way we incorporate the arts and storytelling into our Level I curriculum. During Global Festival, students experience snapshots of different cultures around the world through playing games, doing crafts, and hearing stories. Our Paddle story is adapted from the Caldecott Honor award winning book Paddle to the Sea by Holling Clancy Holling.