River to River

Up a River...WITH a Paddle

We believe in letting students learn through experience, and we also believe in giving them the tools to achieve this. That’s why we give them paddles, and let them investigate the wonders of the Mississippi River through (all)hands-on(deck) adventures.

Students explore the social, cultural, historical, environmental and geological aspects of the Mississippi River and life on and around it in Minneapolis and St. Paul.


Our Pathway curriculum sets UMA apart from traditional school curriculum, and aims to provide a more relevant and approachable way for students to learn. The following learning objectives represent the outcomes we hope students take away from this curriculum.

  • Nature

    Students should have many and varied opportunities to develop a personal connection with nature. Education should emphasize our connections with other people and other species, and between human activities and planetary systems.

  • Community

    Education should help students move from awareness to knowledge to action with opportunities to improve local environments and to solve environmental problems. Learning should extend into the community incorporating environmental and historical reference points into authentic learning opportunities.

  • Real World Application

    Learning should be a function of experience, sensory-rich, emotionally engaging, and linked to the real world. Education should integrate subject disciplines in that addressing environmental issues requires knowledge and skills from all content areas.

  • Tradition

    Education should include traditional knowledge and historical focal points with opportunities to learn about traditional ways of life that are based on respect for nature and the sustainable use of resources.

  • Co-Learning

    Teachers should be facilitators and co-learners with the view that the natural world as well as the historical backdrop of the Upper Mississippi River Valley is an open book that invites discovery by all – students, teachers, families, and communities.


UMA strives to guide students in realizing their own values and formulating their own understanding of global interconnectedness. The following themes represent the values we hope students build on through engaging in this curriculum.

Water: Students recognize water as a precious resource and intrinsic to the sustenance of all living organisms. Students explore methods of water conservation at the UMA campus as well as understand how these concepts apply to their everyday lives.

Bio-Diversity: At UMA we are mindful of bio-diversity as it pertains to the ecology of the Upper Mississippi River Valley as well as the historical significance and development of our campus. Students explore the Upper Mississippi River Valley, past and present, as a player in a larger ecosystem and understand that embracing and preserving bio-diversity builds a strong, healthy, and resilient earth.

Natural Resources: Students will understand and practice opportunities for environmental restoration, cleanups, and other ways to leave resources in better shape than before.

Historical Preservation: Students at UMA understand that history defines the past and informs the present as it relates to people, places, and culture. Students embrace the efforts taken to preserve buildings and artifacts and to celebrate the people and cultures that contribute to the historical significance of the Fort Snelling area as well as Minnesota.

Ritual and Intention: Students practice gathering before and after environmental and historical explorations to engage in purposeful conversation about the land features, natural resources, and people as those components relate to the past, present, and future.

Unity: Students create an atmosphere of cooperation. By welcoming the ideas and struggles of people and cultures (past and present), students seek to elevate the experience of all by honoring contributions and creating an atmosphere of cooperation and celebration.

Gifting: Students understand the culture of “gifting” from the peoples of the past and translate those ideas into opportunities to “give” thoughts, ideas, as well as physical gifts to their own history and the history of their families and communities.

Confidence: The River to River Pathway at UMA strives to create an engaging and stimulating environment where students can explore their strengths, foster new interests, and build their competencies around the environmental and historical explorations of the Fort Snelling area.

Observation and Awareness: The environmental and historical significance of the Fort Snelling area provides opportunities for exploration, investigation and inquisitive learning. Students identify patterns of natural occurrences as well as human behavior and understand the connections and cause and effect of both

Beauty: Beauty delivers a message of both optimism and expectation to students about the world around them. As students explore the Fort Snelling area and the Upper Mississippi River Valley from an environmental and historical perspective, they recognize the beauty of the place and its people.

Interconnectedness: Participating in the environmental and exploration of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, students connect to the events and cultures of the past and begin seeing themselves as an integral part of a larger community that is connecting the past to the future.

student on river bank

students paddling the Mississippi River