Reaching the World From A Public School Classroom
Becoming a global citizen is vital to the education of students, yet challenging to achieve in an environment so heavily focused on testing in math and reading. A remedy to this situation is provided through the innovative efforts of Reach the World, a non-profit organization created by Heather Halstead and Marc Gustafon in 1998, focused on bringing round-the-world journeys of the 43-foot Makulu sailboat directly to under-funded classrooms by satellite. Students and teachers can also vicariously experience the voyages of the Makulu through the Reach the World website (www.reachtheworld.org), where students read journals of the captain and crewmembers and have their questions about the journey answered. Teachers can visit the “Floating Classroom” which provides curriculum resources related to the Makulu voyages.
This year the crew sailed 12,000 miles, beginning from Cairns, Australia through to Milan, Italy, stopping in 13 countries and numerous ports. Crew members experienced the perfect union of education and sailing while on board the Makulu. Captain of the crew, Jim Bender, with 12 years experience in maritime work, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in environmental education. Amie Mignatti, a teacher from Texas who joined the crew this year found the experience to be educationally enriching for crew members and students alike. She mastered the skill of sailing as well as the ability to live on a boat for 10 months with four people whom she had never before met and was able to use her background in education to serve as a liaison between teachers and the crew out in the field. Crew members also visited schools at port sites, asking questions formulated by children in NYC public schools, closing the global gap by singing songs in English and in turn having songs sung back by children in their respective languages.
Back in New York, students were engaged throughout the journey, emailing queries with respect to crew members’ favorite food, places and animals.
At the close of the school year students and teachers from PS 122 and PS 175, who followed the Makulu crew throughout their journey, had the opportunity to meet face to face with the captain and crew at the prestigious Explorers Club—founded in 1904 to promote exploration of land, sea and air.
The Reach the World experience is a rewarding one for students. Tatyana Noori of PS 122, Queens enthusiastically stated: “What I like about Reach the World is the places they went, the animals and food they saw.” She especially enjoyed learning about the orangutans—“people of the forest”—whose home is Kalimantan on the Island of Borneo.
The students of Michelle Crawford, 4th grade teacher of PS 122, participating in the Reach the World program for the second year, provided a creative presentation of the impact of their global experience. Fifth grade students of Natasha Spann, PS 175, participated in the program for the first time this year, and gave powerpoint presentations illustrating the history, culture, and geography of the Makulu site visits.
Thus far, Reach the World has reached 75 classrooms in NYC. By 2008, the vision is to expand so that 250 classrooms can have daily adventures across the globe.#