Program gives students a chance to ‘jump into it’ - Soundings Online

Program gives students a chance to ‘jump into it’

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Aboard the 125-foot 19th-century replica fishing schooner Spirit of Massachusetts, students learn traditional seafaring skills while studying the natural and coastal history of Massachusetts.

Aboard the 125-foot 19th-century replica fishing schooner Spirit of Massachusetts, students learn traditional seafaring skills while studying the natural and coastal history of Massachusetts.

Read the other story in this package: Ocean Classroom marks 10 years

Ocean Classroom and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies co-produce MassSail, a variety of programming that runs from May to September focused on promoting awareness, pride and environmental stewardship.

“The Spirit of Massachusetts serves as a power for symbolism, a vehicle for delivering a message,” says Bert Rogers, executive director of Ocean Classroom.

The 90-ton vessel — modeled after the Gloucester fishing schooner Fredonia designed by Edward Burgess in 1889 — was built at Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard in 1984 as a sail training ship. The vessel now carries 22 students and a nine-person crew on voyages surrounding Massachusetts.

MassSail includes hands-on community programs from Provincetown to Newburyport, week-long Seafaring camps for teens ages 13-16, one-week WhaleSail adventures, and a two-week, three college credit Advanced WhaleSail program.

“This experience was my chance to jump in,” says Greta Murphy, 19, of Cornwall, Conn., recalling WhaleSail’s motto, “Because you can’t get out of it, jump into it.”

After spending a semester at sea with Ocean Classroom during her high school senior year, Murphy, now a college sophomore, spent two weeks aboard the Spirit of Massachusetts for this year’s Advanced WhaleSail, June 25 to July 8.

Sticking to a strict watch schedule, students aboard WhaleSail rotated through duties at the helm or bow, in the galley or classroom. But, Murphy recalls, “Every time we spotted a whale, it was class time.”

Joanne Jarzobski, marine education director of PCCS, led the students in their studies of whales. During the two weeks at sea, Jarzobski saw some whales for the first time this season. Upon spotting the whales, she identified them by name while students noted the weather, visibility, number of birds in the area, and whether or not the whale was traveling alone.

When not on the observation deck, students inhabited the library, handwriting their 10-page research papers on anything from cetacean evolution (the evolution of whales, porpoises and dolphins) to whale entanglements.

“MassSail is the first time in students’ lives they are studying the sea at sea. It is experiential education at its best,” says Theresa Mitchell Barbo, PCCS director of communications.

Murphy says her experiences with Ocean Classroom and PCCS have fueled her hope to someday work as a deckhand on a schooner similar to the Spirit of Massachusetts.

For information on MassSail visit www.coastalstudies.org .