Maritime Discovery Program: Revived After a Three-Year Break

By Nancy Israel, Education Program Co-Manager

The Maritime Discovery Program was very successfully revived after a three-year break! This year, we worked with 20 Quilcene Middle School 7th and 8th graders for three days, followed by 85 Port Townsend 7th graders for eight days, and finished out the school year with 100 7th and 8th graders from Chimacum for seven days. Each of these maritime-intensive programs had unique highlights.

Prior to running these programs in May and June, NWMC Education Program staff trained and planned with teachers from these schools to co-design the curriculum and themes. The new and returning teachers were so enthusiastic about providing their students with this kind of hands-on, maritime experience again. One teacher from Chimacum said “My highlight was seeing the students WAY outside what they have been doing for three years in this COVID funk. It was so amazing to see students come back to almost normal after being secluded for so long.”

All the students got the experience of rowing and sailing the longboats multiple times while working together closely as a team. One student said “My favorite activity during this two-week field trip was definitely the longboat days. I liked being out on the water and doing something with my body. It was very fun to learn all of the different things that are important for sailing and rowing.”

Port Townsend’s Blue Heron Middle School students built a Skunk Island Skiff with the help of NWMC Boatshop instructors. Students were involved in every aspect of building the boat. One teacher observed: “Within a few minutes of getting in the shop, they were using power tools. That is such a hook for them, and the trust really increased their interest. This happened to many students, up and down the academic ladder.“

The Chimacum program included a wonderful partnership with Centrum, a local creative arts non-profit, and was well received by the students. Theater and visual arts were taught through a maritime lens by respected and talented artists that love to work with students. Student creativity was exhibited in a final presentation that included group performances and an art show.

Other highlights included learning in the pilothouse simulator, marine trades tours, and biking to and from campus. One day, orcas were sighted while biking to NWMC along Water Street! Many community partners helped make the program a success, including rowing techniques taught by Rat Island Rowing Club and history tours with Jefferson County Historical Society. Classes taught by the middle school teachers included dissecting various sea creatures and a Race to Alaska math/navigation class that had the students charting their own routes. It has inspired some students to already be planning their own R2AK team for 2025!

The Maritime Discovery Program has made a difference in students’ lives and brought learning to life in ways they never imagined before. Teachers notice changes in their students: “One student who is rarely engaged in the regular classroom and had never been on a boat before was a natural in the simulator room. Another student who is rarely at school showed up for at least three or four days of Maritime and conquered their anxiety about being on a boat.”

We were so happy to be bringing back these experiential and outdoor learning experiences for the students again!

Photos by Jeremy Johnson