a boat is docked on the river

Drum roll please……………… Here is the Cal Fremling, WSU’s newest classroom!

Hello and welcome back to another year in beautiful Winona. I spent the majority of my summer back home in Milwaukee completely isolated from Winona and any events that may have happened over our long break.

I had little contact with the Winona community outside of my roommates, who frankly are useless at relaying interesting social news, so when I returned to start the new school year and logged on to the school website after months of ignoring my responsibilities, I was shocked to find a new addition to Winona State.

We now have a boat.

This new boat is named the Cal Fremling after the late Dr. Cal Fremling, professor of biology and was acquired through the Winona State University Foundation. Frankly however, I could not figure out why the school would need a boat.

What would we use it for? Why do we need it? What can it do? For those of you who are in the same boat as me (get it?), don’t worry, I (strangely for me) decided to take some initiative and went to tour to find out what the Cal Fremling boat was all about.

My guide through the inner workings of the boat was the director of technology and man of the hour, Thomas Hill. As the man in charge of all the technology present on the boat, Tom’s job was to bring the Cal Fremling into the modern world.

Thanks to his tireless work, the boat is equipped with state of the art technologies including wi-fi, live video streaming capabilities, GPS navigation systems and interactive maps. There are also cameras mounted on the front, back and underside of the boat.

With these modern technologies and interactive learning tools, the Cal Fremling has become a brand new, state of the art “floating classroom.”

According to Tom, the purpose of this technology is to provide students ways to bring the river to life. He wants this technology to act as a gateway to provide students ways to interact with the river and apply what they have learned in their classes to the real world in a hands on and interactive way.

As a classroom, the Cal Fremling is open to students and professors of all disciplines to use as an interactive tool to develop a better understanding of class material.

For example, the Cal Fremling recently served as a lab for biology students studying algae growth in the Mississippi river. The students cast out nets to collect algae from the river and used the technology in their classrooms and on the boat to analyze their findings. Theater majors have also used the boat to study lighting at various times of the day and how it can be recreated on stage.

As well as being a classroom tool, the boat also provides students a way to use what they have learned and apply it to the Winona community. The nature of Winona is a large part of what makes the city a beautiful, unique place, and the boat allows students to connect these natural resources to our education in ways specific to Winona.

The Cal Fremling is very young and currently still in the developmental stages. Constant updates are being made to the boat in an effort to find new and innovative ways it can be used other than joyriding down the Mississippi.

This means the future of the Cal Fremling is being left intentionally open-ended. This open-ended nature is what helps the boat provide countless opportunities for fun, engaging and flexible learning in the Winona community.

I encourage you to talk to your teacher if you think there is a way the Cal Fremling boat can be used in your courses. It would definitely make for an interesting class period.

Happy Sailing!

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Caleb Bednarski

Caleb graduated in 2015 with a BS in Elementary Education with a Spanish minor. He is a music fanatic who loves to run and play Ultimate Frisbee. He is originally from Milwaukee, WI.

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