Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Call to the Wild: My Yukon River Trip Grant Proposal

Grant Info: “The Lilly Endowment believes that engaged teachers…help produce engaged students.” The Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program awarded 120 grants of $8000 each in 2011 to support creative projects of individual Indiana teachers…. Personal renewal & individual intellectual growth are the primary goals of this program. The expected direct or indirect benefits to the educator & to his or her students must be described in the project proposal. Substance, clarity, originality, creativity, imagination, & feasibility of the project are considered when choosing recipient.

Here's most of my 3-page grant proposal....

My Call to the Wild:
A Journey of Self-Discovery through Writing in the Land of the Midnight Sun

The $8000 Teacher Creativity Award will help me fulfill my aspiration of floating the Yukon River 460 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory, Canada. By experiencing and writing about the river and surrounding areas, I will be able to rejuvenate myself as an individual and as a teacher.

Mrs. Nieten’s Teaching Experiences:
I graduated from Anderson University (’98), where I majored in Speech Communications & Theatre Education and minored in English Education. I began teaching English and theatre at Noblesville High School in 1999. In my twelve years of teaching, I have dedicated myself to the NHS community by taking tickets at sporting events, teaching the after-school SAT prep course, participating in fundraisers, mentoring new teachers, completing my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and teaching summer school for nine of those years to students who are repeating an English course in hopes of earning their required credits. I have also directed three plays and twelve musicals at NHS.

Rationale & Personal Renewal:
Since marrying my husband Jake in 1999, the majority of our breaks from my hectic teaching schedule have been used to pursue outdoor adventures, whether it be backpacking in the Rockies, whitewater rafting in Colorado, canoeing in the Ozarks, or kayaking with alligators in the Everglades. We recharge our passion for life and each other through outdoor activities. I return to school refreshed for what my life as a teacher demands.

Several inspirations motivated the conception of this unequivocal trip: author Jack London, the Gold Rush of 1898, my respect for the wilderness, and a quest of self-discovery. I’m drawn to the characters, plots, themes, and Yukon settings in so many of London’s tales. The Gold Rush intrigues me because it is one of the times in history where men were brave enough to gamble everything just for the possibility of creating a better life. In addition, my draw to and respect of the water and my desire for a chance at deeper self-discovery also allure me to the Yukon River.

Because this was envisioned prior to applying for this grant, I have much of what is needed for this trip, yet I still lack imperative items and necessary finances to see this invigorating voyage to fruition. We have already constructed a cabin that sleeps two with storage and a small living area on a pontoon boat. Through our extensive outdoor experiences, I have acquired much of the necessary gear and crucial skills to make a trip of this magnitude successful.

For more than ten months out of the year, NHS and its students claim my focus. During the school year I am busy with productions, meetings, planning, and grading student writing. I do not have the time, energy, or inspiration to take part in one of my joys in life. If I am afforded this opportunity, my focus will rest on the water that will take me into unfamiliar territory, provoking new inspiration so that I may once again enjoy one of my passions in life: writing.

Timeline & Specific Activities:
June 18-21: Road Trip to Whitehorse
I plan to leave my home in Pendleton, Indiana on June 18. My husband and I will then embark upon the 58-hour road trip while hauling our boat that will soon become our home for one month.

June 21-23: Whitehorse
Arriving on June 21st in Whitehorse will allow me to take part in the National Aboriginal Day & Summer Solstice Festival. While in Whitehorse, YT (the Yukon’s capital) and before boarding the boat, my itinerary includes the following: exploring the hiking trails and majestic views of Miles Canyon & Grey Mountain, observing the Fish Ladder (where I will watch Chinook Salmon make their way to the spawning grounds), and attending a production at Frantic Folliers (a vaudeville performance inspired from the Gold Rush days).

June 24-July 21: The Yukon River
After leaving the shores of Whitehorse, I will spend a month on the Yukon River, where we will average 16 miles a day on the river. While photographing and taking in the beauty of the river, the wildlife, and the surrounding views; I will also thrive on journaling daily, fishing for salmon, navigating the boat, cooking on the boat or shore, writing descriptive narratives, and reflecting on the splendor of being in such a place. During my six weeks in the Land of the Midnight Sun, my month on the Yukon River will be the highlight of my trip because it will finally allow me to encounter first-hand what I’ve dreamed of experiencing. I will truly be able to unwind, relax, and enjoy the challenge that will lead me to write about this adventure of self-discovery.

The Upper Yukon River: 200 miles
Whitehorse to Lake Laberge: 30 miles; Lake Laberge to Hootalinqua: 60 miles; Hootalinqua to Big Salmon Village: 35 miles; Big Salmon Village to Carmacks: 75 miles

The Lower Yukon River: 260 miles
Carmacks to Rink Rapids: 30 miles; Rink Rapids to Fort Selkirk: 52 miles; Fort Selkirk to Stewart Island: 108 miles; Stewart Island to Dawson City: 70 miles

July 21-23: Dawson City
While I explore Dawson City, my husband will shuttle back to Whitehorse to retrieve our vehicle and trailer and will drive the 334 road miles back to Dawson City. Exploring the town and its history on its boardwalk sidewalks and dirt roads will bring me to the homes of the authors Jack London (1876-1916), Robert W. Service (1874-1958), and Pierre Berton (1920-2004). I will spend more time exploring London’s legacy in the Yukon by visiting the Jack London Interpretive Museum where I can visit a replica of his cabin and see his original, restored food cache. London’s original log cabin was built just before the 1898 Gold Rush on the North Fork of Henderson Creek and was where he wrote my favorite short story “To Build a Fire.” To conclude my time in Dawson City, I will view a silent film at the historically restored Palace Grand Theatre.

Before leaving the Yukon Territory for my journey home, I will pan for gold at Claim #6 on Bonanza Creek, where the world’s largest gold rush started. With my gold in pocket, I’ll travel up to Midnight Dome to absorb my final views of the Yukon River and Bonanza Valley. I will reflect upon my month long trip and begin writing a memoir of my adventure.

July 24-29: Road Trip to Pendleton
During this travel time, I plan to complete my memoir, construct a photo gallery, type my daily journal writings, and prepare a presentation to share with my students, colleagues, and family.

I will keep a daily journal, a photo & video journal, and complete at least four finished descriptive writing pieces inspired by the Yukon River and its surroundings. A PowerPoint presentation and a memoir will be completed. I also plan to submit this memoir to several outdoor magazines in hopes of being published.

Student Benefit & Followup Activities:
My future students and colleagues will experience a recharged and enthusiastic Mrs. Nieten because I was blessed with the opportunity to fulfill one of my personal dreams. For the remainder of my teaching career, I will be able to share my experiences, my memoir, and my four descriptive writing pieces, along with pictures and artifacts, with my students to show how my surroundings inspired my writing. When I teach my students how to write descriptively and create their own memoirs, I will no longer be teaching the writing process solely with instruction and student sample writing pieces. I will incorporate my own writing and experiences into my teaching. This will be exceedingly more effective as I will be able to share my frustrations, roadblocks, and inspirations that I encountered during the writing process.

In addition, being pushed out of my comfort zone and being stretched to my limits during my trip will transfer into a new empathy for my students that feel out of place and anxious in my classes because of language barriers, stage fright, or weaknesses in writing and/or literature.

Future Plans & Statement of Intent:
I plan on remaining in my current position as an English and theatre teacher at Noblesville High School, which is located in Noblesville, Indiana, for the 2011-2012 school year.

Traversing the powerful waters of the Yukon River through the Land of the Midnight Sun will be of deepest intrinsic value. The opportunity to detune from the niceties of this modern world with renewed self-discovery in these remote surroundings will be an invaluable inward examination. What I will gain from this edifying experience will not only revitalize me, it will also be a constant anchor in my life, reflecting continual growth in character throughout the coming years. Appropriately named the Land of the Midnight Sun, the ever-present illumination is a reflection of what I seek to procure during this journey. A journey, beginning with the immediacy of freedoms rarely experienced by others, will end with the knowledge of what I am not from the being of who I already am.

1 comment:

  1. Our departure date has been changed to Thursday, June 23rd due to my summer school schedule.