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‘Penny and Kenai’s Summer Adventure in Alaska’

‘Penny and Kenai’s Summer Adventure in Alaska’

Dave Boyer, a science teacher at Kernersville Middle School, along with his wife Amanda Boyer, a PE teacher at Kernersville Middle School, and their two daughters embarked on a 60-day road trip during the summer of 2023. The Boyer family traveled between national parks and other scenic spots from North Carolina to Alaska. After their trip, the Boyers wrote a children’s book dedicated to their daughter’s first grade teacher.
Before the trip, Ms. Musten, a first-grade teacher at Piney Grove Elementary School, gave their daughter Annabelle a pug stuffed animal with a note that read: “To Belle Belle, I have always wanted to see Alaska’s mountains! Can I come with you on your trip? I hope so!” signed by Penny the Pug. Both of Boyer’s daughters, Abigail and Annabelle, carried stuffed animals in the Kenai Fjords National Park. Abigail had a stuffed wolf and Annabelle carried Penny the Pug.
They hiked up more than 3,000 vertical feet towards the Harding Icefield where they stopped to take a picture for Ms. Musten to show that Penny the Pug had made it to see Alaska’s mountains. That picture spurred the creation of “Penny and Kenai’s Summer Adventure.”
“The picture grew into this idea of Penny and Kenai’s Summer Adventure. We’d like to dedicate this to Lisa Musten in thanks and appreciation for having such a positive impact on our daughters,” Dave Boyer said.
Boyer has the lifetime goal of reaching the highest point of all 50 states. He has climbed the highest points of 42 out of 50 states currently. Boyer found his connection to nature when he went to Tomoka State Park in Florida where he saw a manatee mother and her calf.
“My wife and I have been to all 50 states and have set a goal to take our daughters to see all 50 states. One of the pictures in the book was from the summit of Black Mesa, which is Oklahoma’s highest point.” Boyer said.
As a teacher and a parent, he notes the positive impacts that teachers have on their students.
“As a teacher that is also a parent, it has been awesome to see how much my daughters love their teachers and classmates and genuinely care about each other,” Boyer said.
He also credits his career change to become a teacher after being lost in the Amazon rainforest for six days in 2002.
“One revelation that came from that challenge was that I wasn’t sure how I would be remembered if I died. What impact had I made on the world? As I thought about how to make that kind of impact while I wandered the jungle, I concluded that teaching was a way to do that. If I could influence one student to become passionate about the Earth, then my impact would carry through both that student and myself. If I could influence one student per year and teach for 30 years, that’s 30 times the impact. It’s a ‘pay it forward’ or snowball kind of effect,” Boyer said.
During the process of writing a book, Boyer involved his whole family in the drafting process.
“They bounced ideas off each other and wrote some drafts of their own stories. We took more than 50 pictures while hiking with the two stuffed animals. When the summer ended and we returned to school, I took it upon myself to craft a story using our pictures. At first, I thought I could make the story follow a similar adventure as what my family had been on that summer, but I also wanted this to be a present for Ms. Musten that she could potentially use in her classes. So, I thought about read-along picture books that she could read to her students,” Boyer said.
To write a book on the first-grade level, Boyer researched the reading and writing standards for 1st graders in North Carolina. He used 1st grade vocabulary lists in order to communicate the scientific concepts that he usually taught in the 6th grade. The story also engages students with science concepts and enables students to connect Ms. Musten’s lessons outside of the classroom to the natural world around them.
In the future, Boyer hopes to write more Penny and Kenai books for each grade as his daughters move through elementary school. The books would have a focus on science standards for their grade level.
“My daughters love all of the teachers they have at Piney Grove. Every teacher at Piney Grove is deserving of recognition like this,” Boyer added.

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