Shipwreck Museum Serves as Sea of Opportunities Collaboration Classroom Throughout the Winter and Spring
By Michelle Cartwright Soverino
Sea of Opportunities school collaborations have found a new classroom space in the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum’s Anastos Gallery. Starting on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, a class of third grade students from the Nantucket New School are learning about the island’s vast and intriguing maritime and lifesaving history with Evan Schwanfelder, Egan’s Manager of Maritime Education.
Schwanfelder’s Museum lessons are designed to be immersive and hands-on, using the Museum's permanent collection to give students an opportunity to learn how to handle artifacts and observe them to develop an understanding of how objects from the past help narrate a story and bring history to life. As the unit continues, students will participate in lifesaving drills and activities such as heaving lines, rigging a breeches buoy, rope work, and enjoy an introduction to general seamanship.
The first visit to the Museum was on Tuesday, March 12, and they will continue their lessons there on a weekly basis through mid-April. For their first visit, the students enjoyed a tour of the Museum that included a broad overview of some of the island's notable shipwrecks, and the geography of Nantucket that made its shores so susceptible to wrecks. Museum exhibits such as the Nash Family Topographical Map and the M. S. Worthington Charlie Sayle Surfside Lifesaving Diorama helped illuminate the various lifesaving tools and activities that were once integral to the island's maritime community.
Following the Museum tour, students gathered in the Anastos Gallery for a lesson on artifact handling. Objects included a stadimeter, a brass megaphone, heaving lines, a telescope, and a lifesaving station telephone. Each student was given white gloves, a soft surface, a worksheet from the Smithsonian Institute, and an artifact with no pretense. They were charged with observing the composition of their object, and asked to ponder what that object may have been used for. After some time to work independently, the students gathered in a group to share their findings. With the help of Schwanfelder, they learned about the objects true nature, use, and connection to Nantucket's lifesaving history.
"Giving youth the opportunity to handle artifacts from their local history is a wonderful way to engage them with all that makes Nantucket a truly remarkable place to grow up. It fosters connection, understanding, and also inspires them with the unwavering human spirit, courage, and kindness that are so wonderfully rooted in the island's lifesaving and maritime history. These stories are important because they cultivate community and compassion for generations to come," said Schwanfelder.
Egan Maritime is proud to thank the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation for making the Sea of Opportunities school collaborations possible. The Foundation is helping educate island youth, and inspiring and informing the next generation of Nantucketers. We are truly grateful to them. Their support, in every way, makes a wave of difference.