Ocean Classroom High School Semester students embarked on an educational voyage earlier this year in St. Thomas. For four months they will sail more than 5,000 nautical miles, visit a dozen countries and 45 ports of call, participating in field studies and service projects, while also maintaining a rigorous academic course load. As members of the crew, students quickly learn that success depends on teamwork, and that teamwork depends on mutual trust and respect. Dantzler Lewin from St. Helena Island was among those high school students taking part in the semester at sea.
As soon as the ship sets sail, she becomes an island run by the crew aboard. Students are full participants in the operation of the ship, standing watch with the professional ship’s officers and crew and learning the time-honored skills of seamanship. Their individual lifestyles are tested by the strict resource conservation, long hours, and demanding physical and mental work required to sail a traditional schooner thousands of miles.
Through diligence and quickly developed time-management skills, students balance their schedules to meet their watch rotations and academic responsibilities for the following courses: Marine Science, Maritime History, Applied Mathematics: Navigation and Seamanship, and Maritime Literature. This course of study is designed to take advantage of the sea and the immediacy of the student’s experience. Students not only earn academic credit on paper, they live and experience an unforgettable education: they snorkel coral reefs; hike through rainforests; dissect freshly caught fish; express themselves through field journals, drawings, personal entries, music and poetry; learn applied mathematics through course plotting and celestial navigation; and immerse themselves in the culture of the unique ports of call: cooking roti with Caribbean locals, dancing in the streets for Carnival, and building the foundation of a school for stateless orphans in the Dominican Republic.
Students develop a global perspective, transforming from tourists to travelers who see foreign ports as places to gain knowledge and understanding. The 2013 Semester students will complete their voyage June 1 in Portland, Maine.