Troy students get look at Alaska
TROY - In a photo, Ryan Morris can be seen standing in front of a landscape that looks like a painting or a calendar photo.
Behind a forest of pine, mountains form a towering backdrop as a snow-covered road stretches into the distance.
The only thing that seems to be missing is the screech of an eagle or maybe the cast from TV's "Northern Exposure" -- Dr. Joel Fleischman, Maurice, Maggie, Ed, Ruth-Anne, Chris-in-the Morning, Shelly and Holling, the whole gang.
The place in the photograph is Nondalton, Alaska and it was one of the stops on Morris' recent trip to "The Last Frontier" as part of a teaching experience with a group of his fellow Mansfield University students.
A student art teacher who works with Troy art teacher Lucy Chamberlain at W.R. Croman Primary School in Troy, Morris made a presentation about his trip Friday to students in the school gym.
Photos of Nondalton and other places on his trip were projected onto an overhead screen.
Before the program began, Morris promised the students that his presentation would be exciting, but he asked them to keep their "ooh's and aah's to a minimum."
"Is everyone ready to go?" he said.
The question was followed by a chorus of "yeses."
The Lake and Peninsula School District, located in King Salmon, Alaska, hosted Morris and his group, thanks to a federal grant. Some of the students, like Morris, were art education majors and some were math education majors.
Morris noted all the plane flights - 19 hours worth - that he took: Elmira to Detroit, Detroit to Phoenix, and Phoenix to Anchorage. In Alaska, he rode in bush planes. He even was able to put on pilot's gear in the cockpit on a Pilatus PC-12 that was traveling from King Salmon to Egegik, Alaska. He said he wasn't going to miss that opportunity.
He told the students that the pilots in Alaska are "very good" because they have to fly in snowy weather.
The students wondered why he went to Alaska, and he explained that the MU students had sent up art lessons to the Alaskan students, and then they were able to go up to Alaska as a result of the grant money.
Morris shared photos of his art lessons, such as teaching the students to throw clay. He said the students, 75 percent of which are Native Alaskans, hadn't taken part in art lessons before, and although they were unsure at first, they gained confidence in their art abilities as the MU students instructed them.
While in Alaska, the MU students slept in schools. Morris said he slept in a pre-school room in Nondalton.
He said that he enjoyed experiencing another culture, in the same country. When asked for comment, Chamberlain said she was happy that Morris and the other MU students were able to see the Native Alaskan culture.
Morris told the students that one entire school in Egegik, Alaska had 14 students. In Egegik, there are 65 to 70 people, depending on what pilots are in town, he said. However, in the summer this goes up to 1,500 to 2,000 as fishermen come to the town.
After Egegik, the MU students split up, with half going to the Nondalton School in Nondalton and the others going to Newhalen School in Iliamna. Morris was in the group traveling to Nondalton School, where he and the other MU students were to teach a lesson on shapes and math through art. The Troy students asked Morris if he saw any "wild bears." He didn't.
"That would be kind of scary, I would think," he said.
But he did see a moose in town, standing on the sidewalk at night. He said everyone jumped out to look at it.
He visited the zoo in Anchorage and had plenty of photos for the Troy students of animals at the zoo, which they seemed to enjoy.
He enjoyed a delicacy, smoked salmon paste with mayonnaise and artichokes. He visited a steam house, where you can take a steam bath.
In addition, Morris had pictures of a basketball tournament. Like Canton, they too had "Warrior Pride" in Alaska. He also had a video of an interesting physical feat called the "Alaskan High Kick."
The temperatures were warmer than the typical cold weather Alaskans experience. It has to be 60 degrees below zero to call off school.
Morris showed a picture of ice in an ice sculpture park melting. And he had some photos of "one foggy day" as well as one of some "nice ice" and one of "not nice ice," where one of the MU students slipped.
The Troy students seemed to especially enjoy a video of someone on an all-terrain vehicle spinning around on the ice. Most people drive these in Alaska, he noted. It makes for good going across the frozen water. Cars aren't especially useful.
"He just drove there on the ice," Morris told the students. "Isn't that kind of crazy?"
Morris thought Alaska was "very pretty" and leaving it was bittersweet.
But he missed the students in Troy and was glad to be back.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: email@example.com.