Rowing with Rockland District Middle School, Rockland, Maine
This post was contributed by Muriel Curtis, Director of Station Maine about a program at Rockland Middle School that is having great success with 7th graders.
We have a project going in the middle school here in Rockland that seems to be working towards encouraging better grades and happier students. We take our seventh graders rowing every week in an open boat in all but the worst weather, through a local experiential education program called Station Maine. Although an instructor is in the boat, the actual handling of the boat is managed by the students, each if whom learns to command early in the program.
How is this raising grades? One of many outcomes of this program seems to be heightened self esteem born of being able to DO something. They handle a multi-oared boat called a gig and genuinely command their peers to that end. This is solid and real accomplishment that is admired by both peers and the community at large. Rockland is a waterfront community with a vibrant working waterfront in which we take great pride. Putting kids in the hub of their heritage and providing them with the tools, in this case a boat and just enough instruction to succeed, cannot help but raise both self awareness and self confidence. When you are in the “hot seat” ( the command position) there is no way out. You must go forward. Rare is the student who, through experiential learning, cannot see his or her own mistakes and correct them. Students succeed at navigating to the target or managing their oar. The lesson they learn is less “I am a good coxswain or oarsman” but more “I tried something really hard and I succeeded. I can do this.”
This sense of confidence learned in the physical world translates into the academic world. Once the student has been impelled into success on the boat (and it is no small feat to command a 32’ gig), the learning in the classroom becomes less challenging. It’s not because the math or essays suddenly got easier. It’s because students can, and do, approach them with a newly discovered sense of “I can”. Success in the physical world breeds success in the less tangible, yet more measurable world of academics. The only difference is the added confidence.
To learn more about the program please go to www.stationmaine.org