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By Emily Hart

I’ve been working with the Instructors in Training (IITs) on service learning projects of their own design throughout this summer. As future sailing instructors, the IITs need to know more than just environmental facts; it’s also essential for them to practice their skills in facilitation, organization and leadership. We decided at the beginning of the summer that a multi-week project, rooted in environmental education, would encourage the development of these important skills.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check in with the IITs about the progress of their CANdy project, where they were encouraging students to bring in redeemable cans and bottles for a candy prize (get it??). About 30 minutes into our work on the project, the group energy plummeted. It turns out that none of the IITs really supported the project, even though they developed it as a group and decided collectively to move forward. Project CANdy was subsequently canned.

During our debrief of this project, the students talked about how everyone harbored thoughts at the back of their mind about project feasibility, yet everyone voted in favor of the project. I posed the question: In another situation, perhaps with a child’s safety in your hands, will you speak up even if no one else does? What do you say when your peers are silent? Even in our rather low-stakes environment, we found ourselves addressing real world questions around leadership and limits. I am so proud of the IITs for their insight into their process and our ensuring conversations around leadership, knowing our limitations and the power of our voices.

Because I won’t let them off the hook that easily, we decided to move forward with a new project based in our learning from CANdy. I proposed a project that has been stewing in my brain all summer: a Courageous Sailing coloring book based on local Boston Harbor species. The IITs took the idea and ran (sailed?) with it. We did a storyboard, made a few prototypes and broke the work into manageable chunks for our class next week. I’m also proud of myself for releasing the idea to their creativity and letting go of what I had originally envisioned. What they have planned is so much better than what I had thought of and I can’t wait for you to see it! 

in Green

By Morgan O'brien

For the past two summers, I have taught in the Swim Sail Science and Summer Learning Project programs at Courageous. These programs, as said before in an earlier blog post, are taken from difficult and challenging areas of the city. It is fascinating to watch these nine to eleven year-olds learn how to sail. For many of them, this is their first time on a sailboat; and for a few others, a first time on any boat at all. But they are all fascinated to be sailing on the water.

The kids, whether they know it or not, are all learning new things while on a sailboat. Such as how to drive a sailboat, how to tell where the wind is coming from, and how to trim the sails. Besides learning sailing skills, they also ask questions about sailing, the things they see on Boston Harbor, or whatever crosses their minds. Questions can range from whether or not it will rain to asking permission if we can flip the boat over. Occasionally, the kids I teach will try to teach me something new or something about the harbor that I didn’t know about or the rules in the popular Pokemon card game. One student, JJ, has tried to teach me many things. JJ has been a student in the Swim Sail Science program the past two years, and has a very vivid imagination. He has told me many new fascinating things about the harbor, one of these facts about the harbor is that “the water is green because Irish people have been in it.” JJ has also told me and other instructors countless other pieces of information about sharks, dogs, and dog sharks. Taiquan, another Swim Sail Science student, has also taught me several interesting facts about myself and the harbor as well. One of the things he has said is that “humans don’t have hair, they have feathers”. 

Several other students in the SSS and SLP programs have tried to each me new things as well. Without the students in these programs, I would be completely oblivious to dog sharks and the feathers that are growing out of my head. It is great to see that kids at such a young age have a vivid imagination that help keep the program and the day sailing interesting. It would be a very different program if the kids did not feel that they could question how the sail boat works, what was in the water, or anything else that came across them. Really, the kids make these programs enjoyable for themselves and their fellow campers, all I do is teach them sailing.