Sail Newport makes the bay more accessible to Newport youth through a partnership with Pell Elementary where fourth graders get on the water as part of their regular schedule.
“It’s perceived as an unattainable thing to be on the water,” said Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport. “It’s helpful to get students to see their city and surroundings from a different perspective, and what better perspective than to look back and see the city from the water?”
Started in 2017 upon completion of the new Sail Newport building, the Pell program consists of 16 classes at Sail Newport, eight in the fall and eight in the spring. Each lesson is split between time on the water and in the classroom.
“It’s amazing how well they’re sailing halfway through the spring semester. They sail alone, with an instructor on the boat with them, of course,” Read said. “The first day, they are so nervous… [then] they are confident.
The standard school curriculum had to be the cornerstone of the program in order to make it a reality. Pell’s fourth-grade teacher Tricia Donnelly said the lessons taken at Sail Newport are taken from the existing curriculum and chosen by teachers specifically because they are best suited to an experience on the water. For example, one lesson is about rocks and minerals, another about erosion and weather. On the sailboats, instructors show students how the weather affects navigation, point out geological points of interest, and how erosion has shaped and reformed the island’s landscape.
“This is not a field trip,” said Kim Hapgood, program director at Sail Newport. “When I walk into the classroom, that’s the first thing we dissipate. You will work and learn, and we simply offer you a different classroom to discover.
Donnelly said she has seen the program educate students about where they live and the importance of the ocean. “We live in a city where we’re known for sailing,” she said. “I never had [such an opportunity], and I grew up here and went through the school system.
The experience also promotes student engagement. Donnelly said he saw students working as a team as they learned to maintain and navigate a boat. There is also the tangible consequence of falling in the water which discourages bad behavior.
“Leaving the [classroom] is funny. It brings more energy to the lesson,” Donnelly said. “Plus, there’s the adventure… It’s a thrilling experience.”
The water brings skills such as situational awareness to the fore, Read said, ensuring students are aware of their immediate surroundings in order to navigate and maintain safety on the boat. Teamwork and relying completely on everyone translates into self-esteem, because “when you fight hard, you feel good about what you’ve achieved,” he said. declared.
Situational awareness also translates into respect for the environment, he added. Seeing harbor seals or a pod of dolphins not only brings science lessons to life, but also helps students recognize that the harbor is full of opportunity.
“The program promotes self-esteem, autonomy and teamwork…and sometimes this happens even without the students knowing it,” Read said.
It also opens up career opportunities, especially in maritime trades, Read said.
“This program, in many ways, demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that, especially children who live in the Newport area, have access to the opportunity and experience of getting in the water.” , said Hapgood. “Boating and being on the water is an integral part of living in Newport when you think about the history of Newport and why people come to visit.”
Read said the sailing program was being carried out through existing projects, such as the Pell Swim Lessons Partnership and the construction of the new Sail Newport building, which provided space for hands-on learning. Sail Newport had also brought sailing to Newport classrooms through guest speakers from the sailing industry. One of Sail Newport’s goals was to continue this experience in the classroom.
“It’s during the school day, which is remarkable,” Hapgood said. “Without the support of the teachers, this wouldn’t happen. [At first] they were a little skeptical about losing an hour of commuting once a week, [wondering if] we make this program productive and useful. The overwhelming answer is that it was worth it.
Since the program takes place during the school day, there is 100% attendance. Although students can opt out of the sailing portion, they still travel to Sail Newport as the classroom session is part of the required curriculum. Onboard instructors are familiar with behavioral models, such as STAR Student, which children are already using in the classroom.
“We use the same nomenclature and language in terms of boundaries, respect, etc.,” Hapgood said. “We continue that same language at school with our expectations on the water.”
Instructors also have the opportunity to work individually with each student. Hapgood said they keep things consistent by ensuring the same instructor is with the same students each week during the fall and spring sessions.
“That was very important with the ability to gain a good level of trust with the kids and to develop relationships,” Hapgood said. “It’s amazing that they trust us when they’re on the water, especially those who haven’t done anything like this before.”
Thanks to supporters like 11th Hour Racing and individual donors, Read said Sail Newport is able to provide not only everything needed for sailing, but also transportation, snacks and gear.
“Having an understanding of what sailing is can be a good thing for communities to know, but more important is…the impact of using sailing as a vehicle for communication and cooperation skills “, said Hapgood. “Helping children develop a sense of independence. Self-doubt disappears and self-confidence rises to the top as they pick up the boats and sail them around the harbor.