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When Angie Pendergrass was growing up, she was inspired to become a meteorologist after visits to her schools by scientists.

Now that she is a scientist herself, Pendergrass gives back with her involvement in OAR Northwest and its educational expeditions that help kids get excited about science and the outdoors. As part of the Adventure: Mississippi River 2014 paddling expedition down the river from its headwaters of Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the mouth of the river in Louisiana, Pendergrass and the rest of the team visited Summit Environmental School Monday morning to share their adventures.

“This brings a lot of joy to the expedition,” Pendergrass said. “We get to share our experiences with these kids.”

The Adventure expedition started down the river Sept. 2, said crew member Greg Spooner, and hopes to reach the Gulf of Mexico around the Thanksgiving holiday. A big component of the expedition is educational, with the crew taking photos and sharing their experiences online with more than 80,000 students across the country, and visiting schools like Summit along the way.

“This is what really brings the expedition to life,” Spooner said. “This is what makes it tangible for the students.”

But the expedition is also doing research work, collecting river samples and other measurements throughout the voyage. Those samples will be analyzed by partner organizations, with one of the goals being to better understand the the river’s contributions to the hypoxic dead zone area in the Gulf of Mexico.

But what really got the kids excited Monday at Summit were the stories of OAR Northwest’s different expeditions and the photos of the unique animals the crew members encountered along their way.

Students gasped and clapped when they saw photos of eagles and frogs and mayflies on the Mississippi River, and listened with rapt attention as Spooner told the story of how the crew’s last expedition ended in failure after their vessel tipped over during the final leg of a voyage from West Africa to Miami by rowboat.

“I am so excited they are here to share their story with you,” Summit principal Dirk Hunter said at the end of one of the presentations. “You all get to see a current day explorer and scientist.”

“This brings a lot of joy to the expedition. We get to share our experiences with these kids.” Angie Pendergrass, meteorologist on expedition down Mississippi River
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