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New York City
September 2001

Reach the World: “Aiming for Big Impact in Small Communities”

When Heather Halstead speaks of her voyage around the world, her eyes have a calm, soothing glance and the tone of her voice significantly softens. She makes sailing sound uniquely personal and appears mesmerized by the images of the people and places she encountered.

“When sailing, you are surrounded by the most austere, wild, environment, unconcerned with human existence,” she said. “At first it makes one feel so small and insignificant.”

Her personal photo album filled with the mental images that she collected along the way appears to hold more than she could ever share with anyone. Yet, she made this yearlong voyage only to achieve this seemingly impossible task: share it with schools.

The Founder and Director of Reach The World, a non-profit organization, Halstead launched a round-the-world voyage in 1997 that sought to bring the world into the classroom. She and her crew collaborated with the students of five classrooms in NYC public schools through the Internet, creatively enhancing their curriculum.

The second voyage, launching in November of 2001, promises to bring the same type of interactive, expedition-oriented curriculum to 25 classrooms in the Bronx.

“We have the technological means to enhance the quality of learning. “Boring” topics can be made to come to life with technological aids and human contact,” she said.

The voyage, indicative of how a dream can become a reality, was one Halstead must have taken numerous times, at least in her imagination. As a child, she listened to her grandfather, Charles Stoddard Pope, tell his own stories of sailing, as he wove macrame—an art of knots, also known as “the sailors art.”

“He was the center of our family,” she said. “He was a very kind-hearted, gentle man whose big thing in life was sailing.”

She was first introduced to the practical side of sailing at the age of 15 when she attended a summer sailing camp, where she later served as a counselor and an instructor. However, when she arrived at Dartmouth College, she discovered a new passion: teaching. “Most of my off-campus experiences had to do with being a teacher,” she said.

During her last year at Dartmouth, her two seemingly different interests found a way to connect. Having no aspiration to join the corporate world, Halstead considered other options. She knew she wanted to sail around the world and that her on-campus and off-campus activities had provided her with enough practical knowledge to raise funds and make Reach the World a reality.

Tania Aebi’s Madean Voyage, an autobiographical account of the author’s voyage around the world, provided Halstead with the momentum to make her dream a reality.

“I don’t know what it was that dropped this book in my lap,” she said. “There are so many options of what to do but little encouragement to follow non-traditional routes,” she said, explaining that the author served as a role model. Heather became the first young woman to travel around the world as captain of her own ship after Aebi.

The first voyage was conceived of in January of 1997 and was launched a year later. Halstead was able to lease a 43 foot ketch Nautor’s Swasn Keds, built in 1978 in Finland. She recruited a crew, consisting of 30 people, who rotated throughout the year and who shared the same passion for education.

“The premise of the exhibition was to take a real world expedition and convert it into classroom material with the computer as a tool. The Digital aspect was to serve as a bridge between the real world experience and classroom curriculum,” she said.

In collaboration with the Institute for Learning at Columbia University, which provided one student/intern to work with the five classrooms, Reach the World was able to achieve its task.

A project organized by Heather Ganek, one of the teachers that worked with Reach the World serves as an example of how the voyage was incorporated into the classroom.

“The theme of the year was world culture,” said Ganek. “We were looking to expand the kid’s understanding of different cultures and one way to do so was through the study of religion and language.”

Her class happened to be studying Asia when Halstead was in Singapore. The classes prepared an itinerary, which the crew followed. The crew then mailed a packet with information, photos and brochures from the places they had visited.

“The kids received a better sense of understanding because they had teachers beyond the classroom,” said Ganek.

During the second voyage, Reach the World will be working with 25 classrooms in the Bronx and will bring an intense level of participation to students of ages 3-8. “The only way for the project to work is to provide support. We provide each classroom with an intern that spends 5-10 hours per week helping with issues that arise from Reach the World,” said Halstead.

Classes are expected to incorporate Reach the World material two times a week, and to produce at least one project per semester. Halstead has already selected her crew, although she will not be taking the voyage, but will remain behind to work closely with the school and their communities.

“In order to make a change in these communities you must be there on the ground to know its needs,” she said. “We are aiming for big impact in small communities.”

Her vision today is “that this kind of educational resource will be available to every classroom in the US and abroad.”

For more information on Reach the World go to www.reachtheworld.org


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.