Island Students Discover Nantucket's Maritime Heritage
By Michelle Cartwright Soverino
For the sixth consecutive school year Egan Maritime is partnering with all island middle schools—public and private—to ensure Nantucket youth benefit from experiential maritime learning that provides a connection to the island’s maritime trades and history. As part of its Sea of Opportunities Maritime Education Program, Egan Maritime will provide semester-based educational maritime experiences at the Nantucket New School and the Nantucket Lighthouse School. Additionally, 2018 markss the fourth year the organization is in Nantucket Public School’s Cyrus Peirce Middle School eighth grade class.
Taught by Dr. Amanda Knight Bardsley, this year’s Sea of Opportunities Oceanography and Maritime Studies classroom will have the largest number of students on record with 137 youths in the 2018-2019 eighth grade class. When speaking with Dr. Bardsley about the class she noted, “All 8th graders in Nantucket Public Schools are enrolled in Oceanography and Maritime Studies. This experiential course makes island life relevant by emphasizing Nantucket’s maritime history, vocations, and sciences. We start with a narrow focus on how water moves on and around our island, and then expand our scope outward by learning about air and water currents. We wrap up the year by reflecting on the global issues of the carbon cycle and ocean plastic.” The first unit in Dr. Bardsley’s classroom is How did we learn to navigate the Earth? Incorporated into this unit is the annual build and race your own cardboard boat program. Students work in groups to design and craft a boat that will finish a short race at Children’s Beach using cardboard, duct tape, and wood glue. Not only has the cardboard boat race become a favorite for parents, teachers, and Egan Maritime, but also for the students, as well. It is a great start to the school year and provides students the opportunity to work alongside their peers with a shared goal.
Reflecting on the program, Dr. Bardsley said, “Our goal is to provide all students the opportunity to learn through a hands-on engaging curriculum that also exposes students to maritime vocational opportunities. More than developing mariners, we want to help students chart their own course to success by refining interpersonal skills and identifying individual strengths. This is best exemplified by a debrief discussion a few years ago. In the first unit, we complete an engineering design challenge in which students construct and test a cardboard boat. When asked to reflect on what the class learned from this project, this particular student's hand immediately popped into the air and was waving back and forth. Barely able to contain herself, she blurted out, ‘I learned that everybody has different strengths and weaknesses. This statement is especially significant because she was a member of a group that required coaching every single day on how to work together as a team. In the end, they had one of the most successful boats. More importantly, however, they learned how to work and communicate as a team.”
Egan Maritime’s leadership is dedicated to providing maritime education for island youth. Maryann Hedaa, Egan Maritime Trustee and Chair of the Sea of Opportunities Maritime Education Program noted, “The Board believes deeply in our Mission ‘to inspire the appreciation and preservation of Nantucket's maritime culture and legacy.’ The Sea of Opportunities Program is our commitment to a living mission statement that focuses on maritime education experiences for the young people growing up on Nantucket. “ She continued, “We believe Maritime Education is a tool to help young Nantucketers work together, to understand and respect their island environment, to motivate them to think of maritime careers and service opportunities and above all to offer students an opportunity to test their curiosity and courage by stepping out and trying new things, to develop a deep respect and sense of stewardship for the environment and perseverance to finish maritime projects that are both challenging and require teamwork. We think the Sea of Opportunities Program is one way to inspire young people to appreciate and preserve the history and beauty of Nantucket.”