COUNCIL BLUFFS — The idea occurred to teachers Robert Tellgren and Anne Goldapp as they prepared lessons for the Council Bluffs School District's Summer Exploration program: Use the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and the flooded Missouri River to teach their second-grade students.
“We're studying wind power, water power and sunlight,” Tellgren said, and he was convinced that if the students could go to the river and walk on the bridge “they could see how powerful the water and the river is and how it affects a community.”
Many of the students had never been near the river.
Tracy Mathews, the site supervisor for the Summer Exploration Program at Franklin Elementary School, also liked their idea. That's why more than two dozen Franklin youngsters and more than 30 from the Summer Exploration program at Bloomer Elementary School took a field trip to the river last week.
Mathews said seeing the floodwaters meant the youngsters were better able to understand what they learned in the classroom.
“We have a chart that shows how much the water goes up and down,” Tellgren said, “and the students follow the changes.”
The visit to the river left an impression on Isabel Depaw, 7.
“I learned that rivers can get really, really, really high and it can break rocks like the Grand Canyon. It was a little scary when you go close to the railing. And, no, you can't swim in the river.”
Other student lessons:
Aiden Behounek, 7, said he wasn't afraid, even though “I felt like the bridge was going to break at first. … But I didn't think the bridge would fall down.”
Wynter-Jade Churchill, 7: “The water was going so fast, and if you fell in, no one could help you, even if you had a life jacket.”
Hannah Kuehnhold, 7: “It was kind of scary, kind of high,” but “at the end of the bridge it wasn't as scary.” She added: “I don't want to go on the bridge again until the flood stops.”
Teacher Goldapp said, “Some were scared, but they all loved it. They commented about the smells, the feel of the bridge movement, and they asked about the stuff coming down the river.”
Ann Mausbach, district curriculum director, said the teachers “really made it a teachable moment. They use what's happening around them, and that's what made it powerful, a real experience.”