2012-08-30 / News

Islander will teach students what she learned at sea


The 177-foot tall ship Gazela sails by Senesco Marine in North Kingstown. In the background is the hull of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, which is currently undergoing construction at the marina. 
PHOTO BY ONNE VAN DER WAL The 177-foot tall ship Gazela sails by Senesco Marine in North Kingstown. In the background is the hull of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, which is currently undergoing construction at the marina. PHOTO BY ONNE VAN DER WAL Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island helped six Rhode Island educators become students again this summer during a five-day voyage from Philadelphia to Newport aboard Gazela, a 177-foot tall ship. The learning experience in the floating classroom served as a prelude to the educational programs that will be offered on Rhode Island’s official sailing education vessel, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, when it is commissioned in 2013. The Oliver Hazard Perry is a fully rigged tall ship that is 196 feet long and more than 13 stories high.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for these teachers, professors and administrators to experience the powerful classroom experience created on the deck of a ship,” said the foundation’s education director, Jessica Wurzbacher. “The experience is hard to explain – you need to be there and do it, and that’s exactly what they did. Standing watch under the stars at 3 a.m., climbing the rigging to furl the sails, and helping to keep the ship and crew safe and secure. Their new passion is now being channeled to their schools and to their students as we continue to develop our programs.”

Wurzbacher is a Jamestown resident who over the past 10 years has logged more than 40,000 nautical miles teaching high school and college-level programs aboard schooners.

Also aboard Gazela was islander Michelle Bush, an associate principal and special educator at Paul Cuffee School in Providence. “Students are often faced with things they don’t know anything about, which can be very intimidating,” said Bush. “As a teacher and an administrator, I know what I’m doing when I’m telling other people what to do. It’s good to step back and be the one that doesn’t have a clue and has to figure it out.”

Bush said that she sees her school using the education platform for a variety of different subjects. “There was a lot of problem solving and math involved onboard. For example, the angles we have to measure, how far off certain boats are when we’re on watch or on lookout, and even the degrees you are turning when you’re at the helm.”

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