• Stephanie O’Hanley

Défi Go Fetch uses online educational platform ChallengeU to connect with school kids

PHOTO COURTESY DÉFI GO FETCH The Défi Go Fetch team crosses the border into the United States: an image from their October ChallengeU module focusing on Lake Champlain and the Champlain Canal.

Last May when Julien Granger, Luc Labelle and Nuka de Jocas-McCrae began their 9000 km Défi Go Fetch kayak expedition from Montreal to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, a key goal was to create educational modules for teachers to use in their classes and communicate directly with students to share what they’ve learned during their journey

In September the trio, who grew up in Île Perrot, began posting monthly educational modules in French on the online educational platform ChallengeU. “It’s interactive,” explained Labelle. “You can go through all the modules, which are kind of like PowerPoint but easy to use and very good looking. Kids go through the slides and they answer either a question that we ask them or we tell them about the history of the places we go through and talk about the animals and nature.”

Through the modules, aimed at children ages 10 to 14, the Défi Go Fetch team shares facts and other things learned during the expedition, mentions a team value such as curiosity, patience, creative thinking and friendship, asks students questions and answering students’ questions, often by writing them back, Labelle said.

“We’re doing on educational module for every part, every section of our trip,” he said. Modules include one about the St. Lawrence River, and October’s module focused on Lake Champlain and the Champlain Canal. The team is currently in South Carolina but November’s module will capture their time in New York. “There’s so much to tell about it,” Labelle said.

“This is available for any teacher who wants to use it,” Labelle said. ChallengeU, a made-in-Quebec free online educational platform, is based on a concept of free activities for teachers, he said. To date Défi Go Fetch’s account has between 200 and 400 subscribers, many from schools in and around Montreal, but the team isn’t always sure exactly how many people follow their postings, Labelle added.

October’s module drew so many questions from kids in one classroom the team posted a YouTube video to answer one question many children asked - ‘where do they sleep?’ Labelle said. “We hope to be able by Christmastime to have a phone call with them,” he said adding it’s not easy to balance other tasks related to their expedition - cooking food, traveling, dealing with the weather, and managing social media feeds - with producing educational content.

Interacting with teachers and kids and creating educational content means a lot, Labelle said. “It gives us a lot of motivation to continue our expedition.”

Pierre Gagnon, a Grade 5 teacher at Montreal’s École Saint-Gérard and a fan of Défi Go Fetch who works part-time for ChallengeU, said his class completed the first module. “I haven’t done the latest module with my students yet because they had an exam and a report card and it would be rushed. I have the impression teachers tell their students it’s not an official part of the curriculum but follow these guys and answer their questions.”

To see Défi Go Fetch’s modules, visit edu.challengeu.com and type @defigofetch in the search bar

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