Whether it’s what he calls “the ultimate story problem” or probing the depths of his soul, adventure athlete Jordan Hanssen loves tackling challenging questions.
So far the 29-year-old writer and University of Puget Sound graduate has been pretty good at finding answers.
Take the ultimate story problem, for example: “What does it take to row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean?”
In 2006, Hanssen and three other UPS grads rowed 3,300 miles from New York to England in 71 days, earning a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Now, Hanssen and a new band of rowers are training to row more than 4,000 miles from Africa to South America in December 2012. They’ll tune up for the expedition by rowing more than 600 miles around Vancouver Island in April.
This time the crew includes Hanssen, a physical therapist (Greg Spooner, also a member of the ’06 expedition), an Olympic gold medalist (Adam Kreek of Victoria, Wash.) and a Boeing flight test engineer (Richard Tarbill of Seattle, Wash.).
And this time that ultimate story problem will intersect with a deeper question Hanssen started asking about a year ago. “What is our reason for being?”
Clearly they were raising money for charity, experiencing extreme adventure and potentially connecting communities, but they figured there was something more.
They decided what they really want to do is use their 2012 adventures to teach and inspire children.
Hanssen figures what better way to enjoy learning about science, geography, math, engineering and other subjects than by bringing their 29-foot ocean rowboat to schools for assemblies.
“And they will also teach them about how to reach big goals,” said Otto Loggers, OAR Northwest’s executive director.
The team has developed curriculum for assemblies from elementary school to high school.
A free online program will allow classrooms around the world to follow their 2012 expeditions, read updates and analyze information they collect along the way.
Their assembly program includes appearances at the school before and/or after their trips, opportunities for students to climb aboard the boat, email and satellite communication during the journeys, a video presentation, after-school events, a pen-pal program and other options.
The team will have plenty of information for the kids to study including the salinity of the water. They will also use the trips to collect information for the University of Calgary.
Hanssen says OAR Northwest is modeling its program after Go North, a Minnesota-based dogsled expedition team. The team collects data during expeditions and uses it to promote what it calls “adventure learning” in kindergarten-12th grade classrooms. The program has received funding from the National Science Foundation.
OAR Northwest has secured some grants but is working to land more to cover the costs of their assemblies at schools that can’t afford the program.
The team plans to connect with classes in the United States, Canada, Liberia (where they’ll shove off for their trans-Atlantic row) and Venezuela (where they’ll finish). A school in California has requested to fly the team down for an appearance next year, Loggers said.
“Our goal is to reach 10,000 students through both expeditions,” Hanssen said. “… We think this is a great way to inspire [kids].”