Rhode Island educators met in March at a symposium to discuss what they termed “the endless possibilities” of Oliver Hazard Perry as an at-sea experiential learning platform.
The 207-foot, three-masted, square-rigger tall ship, albeit still an unfinished steel hull, is destined to become the largest privately-owned school ship in America at the time of its expected christening in 2012. At this first educational symposium, educators from around the state gathered in Newport to discuss the possible programs afloat.
“We have interest in marine and environmental studies and programs across the curriculum,” said Winnie Brownell, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Rhode Island (URI). “One thing we know about learners today is that they respond positively to experiential learning. The old days of the ‘sage on the stage’ are pretty much over.”
Rod Mather, URI Professor of History and Archeology said, “We are limited in what we can do using very small boats that can go only a certain distance offshore. With the Oliver Hazard Perry, we would be able to expand our research programs and combine them with such interdisciplinary subjects as humanities, social sciences, maritime history, literature of the sea, anthropology, natural resource economics, oceanography, engineering, even applied mathematics — there are no real limits on the kinds of things we could do.”
The educators also discussed opportunities for secondary and middle school students. Jim Young, Head Master of the Rocky Hill School in East Greenwich, R.I., said that a pilot program at his school used a catamaran on Narragansett Bay to bring life to subjects like physics and Latin and felt that shipboard programs like those proposed for Oliver Hazard Perry could go a long way to bringing students from different schools across the state together.
Following the symposium, the non-profit Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI) held a fund raiser for the ship in early May to provide an opportunity to use a “modular science lab” similar to those proposed for the new ship. The hull continues to undergo modifications and inspections at Promet Marine Services in Providence, R.I. Explaining work on the ship, OHPRI Chair Bart Dunbar said, “The Education at Sea Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry is a living breathing thing.”