Thursday, April 9, 2009
The first time I met Christopher Swain, he had just completed swimming the length of the Columbia River, becoming the first swimmer to cover all 1,243 miles of this great waterway. Throughout his treacherous journey, he climbed ashore to raise awareness of the Columbia's fragile health and the dislocated peoples whose culture is centered on the river.
This year, Swain is giving himself a new challenge: swimming 1,000 miles along the Atlantic shore. He jumps into the cold saltwater on Earth Day, April 22, at Marblehead, Mass., and estimates it will take 200 "swim days" to reach the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. He'll spread out those days in the water so that he'll have time to visit as many as 2,000 schools along the way. At each school, Swain--a father of two--will challenge students to come up with their own projects "to improve the health of our ocean planet." After years of environmental activism, Swain says, "I'm done telling kids what to do." Getting them to challenge themselves is all part of the deal.
If you want to bring Swain's dramatic story into your classroom, you can request a school visit at his Web site, Swim for a Healthy World. Or, follow his unfolding adventure on Changents, where he'll be uploading videos and updating a blog. He'll be using Skype and other tools, too, to connect with students who live far from the coast.
I'll be updating Swain's journey with occasional posts in Spiral Notebook (starting with this one). Let me know if your students take up his challenge.
Photo by Basil Childers