Reaching the World
Ms. Sue Capote, a third grade teacher at CES 70 in the Bronx, set out for a voyage this school year without even leaving her classroom. Over 1,600 students are enrolled in this K-5 public school, which the expedition crew from Reach the World (RTW) visits yearly to teach first, third and fifth grade students about life aboard RTW's schoolship, "Makulu" (pronounced mah-KOO-loo and meaning "strong woman chief" or "big momma" in Zulu). Makulu is presently in year three of a three-year circumnavigation of the globe. The voyage brings the 'world into the classroom' via the Internet for RTW's students in New York City public schools.
When we arrived at CES 70 and piled out of the van, some fifth graders immediately looked up and said, "Hi Heather." Heather Halstead is the Executive Director of RTW, and though she visits schools all year long, she remembered the little girls and told them how much they had grown in the two years since they'd met.
Then, with projector in hand, Halstead set up the stairs to room 403 with Co-Directors of Curriculum, Jess Andre and Ashley Wells. Andre and Wells had come home from overseas to talk to students, before flying out to meet Makulu and commence a 20 to 25-day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
Maps of Africa were handed out to the very eager children in Ms. Capote's third grade class. The students immediately started recognizing places they had studied through RTW's Voyage of Makulu. Halstead then began showing slides of life aboard Makulu, as Andre and Wells commented and expanded on what the students were seeing. One slide showed Wells cooking in the kitchen, or, as it's called on the boat, the "galley". One student asked how they cook aboard Makulu. Halstead replied by asking everyone to sway back and forth. The students began swaying. "Okay, now sway more," Halstead said, "Imagine you were living aboard the Makulu and you were trying to make dinner, and you're moving like this all the time." The students giggled as they imagined food sliding off the table.
Another student asked, "Do you all live in the middle of nowhere?" Andre replied, "We live wherever the boat is." Along with Wells, Captain Erin Myers, and First Mate Josh Madeira, Andre eats and sleeps aboard Makulu. "The crew knows they're not lost by using the compass and charts," added Halstead, who does not sail anymore, but instead devotes all her time to running RTW's program for under-funded schools in New York City.
Currently, Ms. Capote's class is studying the Cape Verde Islands, one of the places the crew has recently visited, which is located off the west coast of Africa. They've been communicating with Myers and Madeira through letters and pictures, and soon will have an online, real-time conversation with them. Later, the students will use resources provided by Myers and Madeira to create their own, technology-rich products that demonstrate the skills they've learned through the Cape Verde project.
"In May, when the Makulu comes back to New York City, you all get to take a field trip and go on board," Halstead announced to a very excited crowd. It's not hard to see why all the students remember Heather when she comes back years later. It wouldn't be hard to believe that this just may be the best lesson about the world that these students ever get, and one that they will certainly never forget.#
For more information on Reach the World call 212-288-6987 or visit www.ReachTheWorld.org.