Rebecca Inver

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By Emily Hart

I’ve been working with the Instructors in Training (IITs) on service learning projects of their own design throughout this summer. As future sailing instructors, the IITs need to know more than just environmental facts; it’s also essential for them to practice their skills in facilitation, organization and leadership. We decided at the beginning of the summer that a multi-week project, rooted in environmental education, would encourage the development of these important skills.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check in with the IITs about the progress of their CANdy project, where they were encouraging students to bring in redeemable cans and bottles for a candy prize (get it??). About 30 minutes into our work on the project, the group energy plummeted. It turns out that none of the IITs really supported the project, even though they developed it as a group and decided collectively to move forward. Project CANdy was subsequently canned.

During our debrief of this project, the students talked about how everyone harbored thoughts at the back of their mind about project feasibility, yet everyone voted in favor of the project. I posed the question: In another situation, perhaps with a child’s safety in your hands, will you speak up even if no one else does? What do you say when your peers are silent? Even in our rather low-stakes environment, we found ourselves addressing real world questions around leadership and limits. I am so proud of the IITs for their insight into their process and our ensuring conversations around leadership, knowing our limitations and the power of our voices.

Because I won’t let them off the hook that easily, we decided to move forward with a new project based in our learning from CANdy. I proposed a project that has been stewing in my brain all summer: a Courageous Sailing coloring book based on local Boston Harbor species. The IITs took the idea and ran (sailed?) with it. We did a storyboard, made a few prototypes and broke the work into manageable chunks for our class next week. I’m also proud of myself for releasing the idea to their creativity and letting go of what I had originally envisioned. What they have planned is so much better than what I had thought of and I can’t wait for you to see it! 

in Green

By Morgan O'brien

For the past two summers, I have taught in the Swim Sail Science and Summer Learning Project programs at Courageous. These programs, as said before in an earlier blog post, are taken from difficult and challenging areas of the city. It is fascinating to watch these nine to eleven year-olds learn how to sail. For many of them, this is their first time on a sailboat; and for a few others, a first time on any boat at all. But they are all fascinated to be sailing on the water.

The kids, whether they know it or not, are all learning new things while on a sailboat. Such as how to drive a sailboat, how to tell where the wind is coming from, and how to trim the sails. Besides learning sailing skills, they also ask questions about sailing, the things they see on Boston Harbor, or whatever crosses their minds. Questions can range from whether or not it will rain to asking permission if we can flip the boat over. Occasionally, the kids I teach will try to teach me something new or something about the harbor that I didn’t know about or the rules in the popular Pokemon card game. One student, JJ, has tried to teach me many things. JJ has been a student in the Swim Sail Science program the past two years, and has a very vivid imagination. He has told me many new fascinating things about the harbor, one of these facts about the harbor is that “the water is green because Irish people have been in it.” JJ has also told me and other instructors countless other pieces of information about sharks, dogs, and dog sharks. Taiquan, another Swim Sail Science student, has also taught me several interesting facts about myself and the harbor as well. One of the things he has said is that “humans don’t have hair, they have feathers”. 

Several other students in the SSS and SLP programs have tried to each me new things as well. Without the students in these programs, I would be completely oblivious to dog sharks and the feathers that are growing out of my head. It is great to see that kids at such a young age have a vivid imagination that help keep the program and the day sailing interesting. It would be a very different program if the kids did not feel that they could question how the sail boat works, what was in the water, or anything else that came across them. Really, the kids make these programs enjoyable for themselves and their fellow campers, all I do is teach them sailing.

By Emily Hart

On Thursday, our Summer Learning Project students learned about fossil fuels and went coal mining to explore the effects of mining on our environment.

We simulated coal mining by mining chocolate chip cookies (the “land”) for chocolate chips (the “coal”) with only toothpicks (“very high tech mining equipment”). It was great to see so many heads down in concentration! After carefully counting the total number of chocolate chips in two different kinds of cookies, I caved to the ongoing pleads to actually eat the cookies. But before they could eat them, I told the students they needed to put their cookies back together.

Stunned silence. “I can’t put my cookie back together!!”. This activity illustrated the effects of coal mining and other extractive industries---it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to restore the land to its original condition. What followed were conversations around energy use and other options, like solar and wind, which we had learned about the previous week.

I was reflecting on this activity during a meeting the follow day with Dave, (Courageous Executive Director), Chris (a board member), Kate (Director of Youth Programs) and Rebecca (Youth Program Outreach Coordinator). It was great to talk about the environmental education program this summer and to look towards the future together. There are so many opportunities to expand the Courageously Green Initiative, from seascape murals on the boathouse walls to air dryers in the bathrooms and the elimination of paper towel waste. There is a lot of potential with the Instructors in Training (IIT) program and with staff education, in addition to continuing to refine the student curriculum. I’m keeping track of our ideas and would love to know—how do you think we can continue to be Courageously Green?

in Green

By Alessia Hughes, Instructor in Training

The definition of a good sailor and a bad sailor are quite clear to practically anyone. A good sailor can sail fast even if the wind is not strong. A bad sailor gets stuck trying to maneuver in heavy winds. A good sailor is strong, bold, and able to succeed in any situation thrown at them. A bad sailor is the opposite.

            Or so it is told to us as we grow up learning to sail. But recently I’ve realized that distinguishing between a good and bad sailor is a whole lot more difficult and complex than we are made to believe.

On the first Tuesday in the second session, a group of IITs took five or six 420s out to race. I was in a 420 with another IIT, Eddie. I was skippering and Eddie was crewing at this point. We sailed into the nook between the inner Boston Harbor and the Mystic River and set up our pins and committee boat to create a port triangle race course. The wind was a little fickle, rather calm; sometimes there was no wind, other times there was an intense amount.

In the first race, Eddie and I won; quite surprised as we did not think nor focus on winning. In the second race, we ended up getting stuck around the pin and sailing backwards; not even finishing before the committee boat started blowing the whistle for the third race’s start sequence.

Then Eddie took the tiller and we won again. But our plans soon backfired, again not finishing the fourth race, as we ended up sailing too far away from the line to be able to cross it. We sat out the next race trying to raise our main sail up the few annoying, ridiculously tough inches left on the mast. We succeeded a little bit, causing our sail to rise up maybe an inch, maybe not even that far. We decided to let it go and join in on the next race-this time doing well.

A few more races went by with Eddie and me switching every two races from the roomy skipper spot to the tiny crew space, where a 6’2” guy can’t fit his legs or head. We continued to do pretty well, plateauing in the top of the middle of the pack.

Eventually it was time to go in, and after a few occasions of the both of us freaking out over the main sail’s top baton back winding or the 420 heeling too much for our liking, Eddie and I were content with our morning sail, but tired enough to gladly go in and enjoy our lunch.

After the day was over, I continued to think about the 420 races. I thought about how many times Eddie had me laughing and how many times we both freaked out, either silently or out loud. I felt pride thinking about our continuous good starts and our few wins. I felt amused thinking about the two times we did not even finish a race. But most prominently, I thought about all of the times you could have defined Eddie and I as good sailors and then all of the times as bad sailors.

How can the two of us start a race right at the line, but, at the same time, struggle to figure out how to start moving again? How could we win a race and then the next race not even finish and then repeat that sequence again? How do we avoid being protested time after time but still manage to completely miss or run over the mark?

Because we are just sailors. We have those moments when everyone is amazed at what we just did. But we also have those moments when all we can do is shake our heads and chuckle. I believe we are good sailors—though not the way I originally thought a good sailor was. We are good sailors because we make mistakes. Because we completely miss the start line, finish line, or mark. Because we sail backwards without meaning to. Because we heel too much and freak out before remembering to hike out and ease the main sail. Because, most importantly, we come away from those mistakes as better sailors and with a good joke to tell everyone when we get back to the dock.

You can call anyone a good or bad sailor. It just depends on when you look at them while they sail. You can find me sailing smoothly and swiftly winning, but then the next person to see me can look at me without wind and very quickly drifting towards the Coast Guard base.

I now see that a good sailor does not get discouraged, is determined, smart, and courageous. It does not matter if you know or understand sail theory or not. It does not matter if you cannot master anchoring or docking. It only matters that you try and try and try until you can eventually succeed at the task. It does not matter if you won every race or did not finish every race. It only matters that you take that experience and feel pride, saying to yourself, “I went out there and was courageous”. Because, after all, that is why we are named Courageous Sailing.

By Kayla McLaughlin, SwimSailScience and Summer Learning Project Head Sailing Instructor

 

“Teachers of young children do one of the best things that there is to do in life: bring joy and beauty, mystery and mischievous delight into the hearts of little people in their years of greatest curiosity”  -Jonathan Kozol

For the past three years I have had the pleasure of working with children from the Boston Public Schools, through the SLP and SSS programs. In that time, I have seen just how fitting the above quote is. It has been inspiring to watch 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders from some of the most difficult neighborhoods of Boston, conquer their fears, discover their passions, and accomplish their goals while sailing on the harbor.

After going sailing everyday, I usually gather my students, and talk with them about how their sail went. Everyone typically shares something they learned, something they are curious about, or a fear they had while out on the water. A few weeks ago, I was talking to Tyrese and Kathia about how their mornings went. Tyrese, a student from the Sarah Greenwood School, was having difficulty overcoming his fear of windy days. When I called on Kathia, a student at the Harvard Kent School, to tell the group what she learned on the water, she explained “Today, I learned that overcoming your fears makes you stronger”. When I asked, she elaborated, stating, “We were tipping over so much today, we got water in the boat! I knew Tyrese was scared, so I held his hand. I really liked how we worked as a team to overcome our fears. I also felt really brave, because I picked up the jelly fish that was in our boat, and put it in the water”. After her beautiful explanation, I asked Tyrese and Kathia if they felt like sailors, to which they both smiled and responded, “yes!”

Every day, I watch my staff kindle “mystery and mischievous delight” into the hearts of our students, and the students have done the same for us. My instructors and I celebrate amazing victories, such as the one I described above, and I consider it an honor to use sailing as a way to build confidence, conquer fears, and establish camaraderie and a sense of community for the young people of Boston.