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By Erin Hemme Froslie, Published September 25 2004

Students dive into Lewis and Clark studies

After following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark for a day-and-a-half, seventh-grader Peter Frei doubted he and his peers would've made good explorers.

"We wouldn't have had enough food and we would've complained a lot," he said. "We're too used to modern devices."

Last week he and his middle school classmates at Oak Grove Lutheran School traveled to Washburn, N.D., to get a glimpse of what life was like for the Corps of Discovery when the explorers reached the Dakotas.

On Friday they shared their experiences with parents and grandparents.

The students toured Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark spent one winter, and the Knife River Indian Villages along with other historic sites.

They canoed in the Missouri River and fried bread over an open campfire.

They learned explorer games, such as "Cat and Mouse," which is tug of war played while balancing on logs.

"It would've been a lot of fun, but it took a long time," eighth-grader Mariah Nelson said of the expedition that lasted from 1804 to 1806. "But it would've been fun to accomplish something that is now in the history books."

Every year teachers and administrators plan a field trip for Oak Grove students in grades six through eight.

With the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition being celebrated this year, it seemed like a perfect theme for this year's trip, said Principal John Whartnaby.

In preparing for the trip, students learned the history of the Corps of Discovery expedition and the major players. They read excerpts from journals kept by the explorers and learned songs from the early 1800s.

Visiting the sites that Lewis and Clark saw made history come alive.

"For kids to actually explore and experience something firsthand teaches them more than we can teach them from books," said teacher Amy Manning.

When the students returned, they completed their own journals. They recorded plants and animals they saw and, at times, wrote from the point of view of someone on the expedition.

Seventh-grader Mollie Lackmann pretended she was Meriwether Lewis when he accepted the assignment from President Jefferson to head west.

"I would gladly be a leader on the expedition," she wrote. "If I can I would like to look at a lot of plants and animals, that has always been a pleasure."

Frei, too, chose to write from Lewis's point of view: "We started our expedition off to a bad start because the river was so muddy that people had to walk in the river and pull the boat," he wrote. "But I still believe that we will make it ..."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534