Voyageur Philosophers: Exploring Canoe Expedition Pedagogy

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Vooys, Peter
canoe , wilderness travel , Kurt Hahn , Transformational learning theory , Canada , canoe expedition
In Canada, the canoe is an integral part of the history and development of nationhood (Raffan, 1999), a vital part of its leisure and tourism industry (Stebbins, 2005), and a central focus of many summer camps and outdoor education programs (Baker, 2005). While a recreation activity for many, each summer there are expedition canoeists who decide to paddle through the waterways of Canada over a distance and duration that many would consider extreme . As canoeing in Canada is part of the national historiography (Dean, 2006; Raffan & Horwood, 1988), this study examines the personal and cultural components of canoeists who have embarked on cross-Canada or extended canoe expeditions of 30 days or more. The intent of this phenomenological study is to explore the motivations and meanings that expedition canoeists make of their travels. Through semi-structured interviews with “modern-day voyageurs”, this study explores how attitudes towards canoeing and wilderness travel are intertwined with national and historical perceptions, the human/nature relationship, spirituality, and the dual search for community and individual identity. The testimony of the participants suggests that there is increased advocacy and education from the paddlers upon their return and that the duration of their trip suggests an extension of flow theory into the expedition culture. In part, the applications of these findings lead to the creation of an example secondary school history curriculum that allows students to paddle with purpose.
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