Two Michiana teachers are going off the grid in search of fresh material

Two Michiana teachers will be going off the grid and following the route of Lewis and Clark on a six-week tour out west this summer. They plan to come back in the fall with fresh material and ideas for their students.

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 1:10 p.m.

Carly and Dave Martin won't be planning lessons this summer. 

They won't be checking their email, and they definitely won't be tweeting or Instagramming.

The teachers are taking a trip out West, visiting the places Lewis and Clark saw on their expedition. And they are going to do it without the help of modern technology.

The Martins aren't the only local teachers who received a Lilly Endowment teacher creativity fellowship this year. 

Read about Elkhart teacher Jim McClain, who got the same grant to create an interactive web comic for his middle school students.

"It's kind of scary but more just exciting," Carly Martin said.

Carly teaches art at West Side Middle School in Elkhart, and Dave teaches history at Penn High School. Their trip is fully funded by a $20,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment through the teacher creativity fellowship program.

The Martins hope to come back from the six-week trip feeling refreshed, with plenty of material to teach their kids.

It's a struggle to find ways to get students to relate to history, Dave said. He wants to show them how they could immerse themselves in someone else's story — in this case Lewis and Clark's.

He will be reading the journals of Lewis and Clark at each stop, and writing his own journals to compare experiences.

When he gets back, Dave said, he will ask his students to do something similar with something that interests them.

Carly wants to show her students that it's possible for them to reach their dreams. This trip is something the outdoors-loving couple have wanted to do for a long time, but they just couldn't afford it.

She will also be checking out Native American art on the trip, and drawing, writing and taking pictures of what she sees.

When she gets back to her classroom, she said, she will be able to teach more authentically.

"I was there, I saw it, and I'm excited about it," she said, adding that students are more engaged when they see their teacher is excited about what they are learning.

In addition to studying art and history, the couple's goal is to just "unplug" for a while. They were a little overwhelmed by the feeling of constantly being attached to phones, computers and other devices.

This trip will be the start of a more intentional lifestyle for both of them, they said.

"It will be more of a spiritual renewal than anything," Carly said. "For us, nature is like church. We are hoping this is going to be just an extended time with God."

They will be leaving mid-June, taking only basic essentials. The grant paid for a small trailer which is "basically a bed on wheels," according to Dave. 

And except for periodic checking-in with families for safety purposes, the Martins won't be on the grid again until August.

"We just want to do something outrageous and document it," Dave said, smiling.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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