New public magnet school has a curriculum built around the sea
Thursday, November 8th 2018
By John K. Hanson Jr.
It is fitting that, Searsport, known as the “town that went to sea”, is the home of the newly launched Maine Ocean School, a public magnet school that uses the sea, and its traditions, industries, sciences, and community to teach high school students. Searsport in its day had more deep-water captains per capita than any other town in the country. Here, the next generation of marine focused leaders is being formed.
On a recent Saturday, the school celebrated its first year of operation with a get together. While the Ocean School is based on the campus of the Penobscot Marine Museum, the high school’s cafeteria was enlisted to make room for the close to a hundred folks at the open house. This is an example of the “all hands on deck” efforts need to establish the school and admit the first group of students.
The Maine Ocean School is very much a community driven dream turned into reality. The members of the board are retired deep-sea ship captains, marine scientists, educators, and professionals who hoped that others could have a successful life like theirs, based on the common love of the sea. This passion for the sea is the prism through which the entire curriculum flows.
The school’s math class has navigation components, biology has a marine slant, and even the English and history courses are stained with salt water. The kids do have to meet the same Common Core standards as all other Maine high school students, but unlike many of their peers, the Maine Ocean School students can see the “why” behind the classroom exercises.
There are a dozen kids in the first class, fairly evenly divided between boys and girls. All have post high school dreams, Hannah, a fourteen-year-old freshman from Stockton Springs, wants to be a marine biologist and thinks that “colleges will take me more seriously, because I am coming out of the Maine Ocean School. Islesboro resident, May, takes the ferry to school every day. She spends her mornings in the wheelhouse, and the returns down in the engine room. “It’s great, I even helped change the oil,” she said.
There is great joy evident in this group of kids; they know they are a part of something new and proud of it. This pride, and their passion for the sea and its opportunities for learning shine through.
For more information about the Ocean School, go to http://www.maineoceanschool.org.