Bermudan (and New Zealand) kids learn to sail at school

April 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Spirit of Bermuda
I’m glad to have clarifying feedback and a deeper understanding of WaterWise, a program in New Zealand and Bermuda that integrates sailing and school subjects.

From Gus Miller at BSWW:

Good day Mr. Hayes,

In your February 1, 2015 Sailing Magazine piece “Kids should sail because it’s fun, not because it’s homework” you make statements carrying some grains of truth but you need to be a lot clearer about the intent of your essay. While you mention some valid points about STEAM, branding and fads, the corrupting effect of corporate goals and values, governmental heavy handed lack of insight and the abuse of funding, your statement that “in New Zealand… sailing is not a school subject, nor vise versa” needs correction.

Since 1980 New Zealand Schools WaterWise (NZSWW) and since 2000 Bermuda Schools WaterWise (BSWW) have taught tens of thousands of 10 to 12 year olds about water safety, seamanship and sailing as part of their school curriculum. NZSWW and BSWW are school based programs led by teachers, are not junior or after school sailing programs, have no need for outside sailing instructors and are conducted during school hours as part of the curriculum. They do use collaborating local club facilities in some cases while in others the schools themselves have waterfront facilities.

The biggest fans and drivers of WaterWise in Bermuda are the teachers because of the powerful effect it has on their students. It brings the joy and excitement of sailing into the classroom and the kids respond by becoming better students academically, better in deportment and in self esteem. Integrating school subjects with sailing lessons is a program that would “revolutionize the teaching of sailing and attract gobs more kids to it”, if it is done the right way

If middle schools in the Milwaukee school system had proper WaterWise program for all students, the number of children wanting to continue sailing would overwhelm Milwaukee’s capacity to provide the opportunity. While a few see the potential, that is just not happening in the USA because no one has a clear vision or understanding of how to do it, politics and egos get in the way and there is a general fear of change or something new and different.

Best wishes, Gus Miller / BSWW


Mr. Miller: I am pleased to know more about your terrific program. You might enjoy this article on page 44 of the May 2104 issue of Spinsheet, about the work of the Spirit of Bermuda, which I believe has a connection to your program.

As to the intent of my article on STEM: let me be clearer. I have no issue with program innovation and creatively integrated teaching curricula. We can use much more of both in the US.

  • But, by adding many more fund-hungry institutions to an already too-small and too-empty education funding trough, we face a possibility that good schools and teachers might be hobbled when well-intended STEM sailing programs take money from schools and remove professional educators from the equation. And therefore…
  • …that both schools and sailing programs should be generously funded for the benefit of both. I hope that US Sailing will make this its primary institutional objective, since all other alternatives pale.

-N

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