Since 2006 Bermuda Sloop Foundation has been providing Bermuda’s youth with experiential learning and character development aboard their unique floating classroom: Sail Training Vessel (STV) Spirit of Bermuda. In that time, more than 3,000 students have stood upon the vessel’s deck, learning critical life skills including communication, teamwork, nutrition, and respect.
One of the Foundation’s key programs is the “Middle School Learning Expedition,” which offers M3-level students the opportunity to embark on a weeklong coastal, residential learning expedition. Over the course of four-and-a-half days and four nights, students engage in an historical and maritime curriculum that uses the sloop to connect classroom science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education with real-life applications. This school year, every M3 student in the Bermuda Public School System had the opportunity to join a full-funded voyage (at no cost to parents), while three groups of private school students participated in partially subsidized voyages at the initiative of their schools.
The focus on STEM education made the formation of a relationship with BIOS the next logical step in program development. For over 5 years BIOS’s Director of Ocean Academy, JP Skinner and a team of dedicated volunteers have been providing snorkel training and in-water science experience to participants in the Middle School Learning Expeditions. The students are picked up from Spirit in one of BIOS’s boats and spend an afternoon learning about Bermuda’s marine environment, as well as the importance of environmental responsibility and stewardship.
Last year, BIOS and Bermuda Sloop Foundation decided to expand upon their collaboration by starting a scholarship program for Spirit participants to attend BIOS’s Ocean Academy. Each year, staff aboard Spirit of Bermuda will select four students from each participating school who’ve shown exceptional potential, motivation, and interest to receive a scholarship from BIOS to fund a one-week Waterstart camp during the summer months. For recipients of these scholarships, the Waterstart camp provides the opportunity to build their SCUBA skills and learn about ocean science through research-based field trips, environmental and laboratory investigations, and group activities and projects.
Remarking on this new collaboration, JP Skinner recently said, “The Sloop Foundation’s help with the scholarship nominations has been such a great connection for us and it’s wonderful to see how local NGOs are working together and supporting each other.” Lakai Dill, Education and Programmes Manager for Bermuda Sloop Foundation, adds, “Week after week, the Spirit crew see how students can gain a tremendous amount of self-confidence and build on courage during the snorkel trips. BIOS’s initiative to engage our help with referring outstanding students to their summer program must be commended, as now we can offer a continuum of service to select students at a critical age in their development.”