As a first year teacher teaching in a Title 1 school on the east side of Charleston, I have found that one of the biggest struggles has been finding a useful piece of background knowledge among my students. My students have seen and experienced some of the worst life has to offer; I have students that watched their family members get shot or that have to care for their baby siblings after school. These kids have life experiences much different than my own and much different from each other, which has made relating to each other and the world very difficult. This changed when they were introduced to “the boat guys” from the Lowcountry Maritime Society.
Since being introduced to the Maritime Society, my students all have a common bond and experience to pull from. They are building boats and doing hands on activities that are building their academic skills, but also building their relationships as well. We relate most everything we do to what they are working on with Mr. Brower, due to the cross-curricular nature of their maritime educational experience.
As a class, we have talked about fractions in math with measurement and how important fractions are to building their boat. Boating has also been a large topic of conversation in math with our standards involving coordinates and locations on the coordinate plane. We have been talking about boats constantly in our study of buoyancy and density in science, and recently, we also traveled to the U.S.S Yorktown and my students were incredibly proud to already know the parts of the ship when the guide asked. They take pride in the skills they have acquired during their time with the Maritime Society.
This program has benefitted my students in more ways than I can accurately express. They are learning so much in those couple hours after school, and it is making it easier for them to learn during the school day due to their common knowledge and being able to relate the academic and real world. They are able to make connections in nearly every subject we tackle. Most importantly, they are unified and excited about the new facts and skills they are learning. My class, which is a very difficult and not so well behaved group of fifth graders, actually cheers when they realize it is boat day, which is saying a lot. I am very grateful for the efforts and teaching of Mr. Brower and the Lowcountry Maritime Society and I know my students are as well.
Mary K. Preston
5th Grade Teacher at Sanders-Clyde Elementary