Ocean Classroom program receives sail training award


The Ocean Classroom high school semester at sea program, accredited by Proctor Academy of Andover NH, has been named the Sail Training Program of the Year by Tall Ships America (formerly the American Sail Training Association, or ASTA). The award was presented at the Tall Ships America Annual Conference in Newport, RI on February 1, and was accepted by David Pilla of Proctor Academy and Ocean Classroom founder Alix Thorne.

Proctor Academy and Ocean Classroom Foundation (OCF) began their partnership in 1994. Each year since then, approximately 21 Proctor students have spent their fall semester sailing a schooner from New England to the Caribbean as part of Ocean Classroom, putting into practice experiential education at its most intense. Each spring, 21 students from a variety of public and private schools all over the US mirror that voyage in the OCF Discovery semester program, beginning in the Caribbean in late January and ending in a northeastern port in late May. Every moment of each voyage is a hands-on learning experience, fraught with physical and emotional challenges.

“Ocean Classroom is one of the most successful programs of its kind,” says Tall Ships America Executive Director Bert Rogers. “Students not only complete a rigorous academic course load, they do so while learning to sail an historical schooner over 2,000 nautical miles, experiencing many different coastal environments and cultures along the way. But their greatest accomplishment is unquestionably the confidence, leadership, and strength of character that is brought about by meeting the challenges of extended voyaging, traits evidenced by every OCF graduate.”

“Our students learn to live by three critical priorities: Ship-Shipmates-Self,” says Ocean Classroom Director of Education Alyson Graham. “They are completely unplugged from electronic media which helps cultivate a sense of alert responsiveness that is critical to the safety of everyone aboard. Students from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds find that their semester at sea experience gives them a much greater sense of their place in the world, something missing from the lives of most teens today. They are able to form close bonds as they learn how to effectively communicate, take responsibility, work as a team, and be proactive individuals living in the moment.”

Ocean Classroom’s current Discovery High School Semester at Sea program departed from St. Thomas, USVI, on January 26 with a full compliment of students from all over the United States, including Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Florida, and Maine. These students will spend four months studying, working, and living aboard the schooner Harvey Gamage before returning to Boston on May 20th. Ocean Classroom is presently accepting applications for the 2013 Discovery spring semester at sea, and for this summer’s one and two week Seafaring Adventure Camps for ages 12-18. 

The Ocean Classroom Foundation’s Annual Appeal is underway, seeking donations of all sizes to provide scholarships to enable participation for students of lesser means, and to support capital improvements to their fleet of historic vessels. For more information or to make a donation, please call 1-800-724-SAIL, or visit www.oceanclassroom.org.

Ocean Classroom is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that has provided experiential education under sail aboard the schooners Harvey Gamage, Westward, and Spirit of Massachusetts to over 16,000 young people since it’s founding in 1996. Educational offerings are accredited by Proctor Academy of Andover, NH and include oceanography, marine biology, US maritime history, maritime and Caribbean literature, seamanship, applied mathematics and navigation. This unique expeditionary learning experience also provides leadership training, service opportunities, and cultural immersion. Customized programs of any length are also available for private groups, schools and organizations.

A boarding-and-day school for 357 students, Proctor Academy's commitment to experiential modes of teaching and learning is written into its mission statement. Located on 3,000 acres spanning a river valley and mountainside, the school complements its college preparatory curriculum with forestry, wildlife science and environmental programs. In addition to the Ocean Classroom program, Proctor sends students to adjunct programs in Spain, France, Costa Rica, Morocco and the American Southwest.

Tall Ships America, the new face of the American Sail Training Association, is the established and recognized hub for tall ship activity, information and expertise in North America. A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on youth education, leadership development and the preservation of the maritime heritage of North America, Tall Ships America organizes the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Series, manages scholarship programs to make sail training experiences more affordable for young people, grant programs to assist crew of Tall Ships America member vessels with the costs of professional development courses and licensing requirements and publishes SAIL TALL SHIPS! A Directory of Sail Training and Adventure at Sea.

By Ocean Navigator