Experiential Learning on the Water
Mr. Willy Fluharty
“Yes, you are the sum of your experiences. Each new experience is just another building block in the foundation of your personality. That is why we are embarking on the Schooner Virginia for this weekend adventure. You may not like it, you may love it, either way, it’ll be a great experience which will add to that foundation.”
And so it was as we set sail aboard the Schooner, bound for some unknown anchorage north up the Chesapeake Bay. It wasn’t about where we were going, it was about the journey. On that journey, the students were active crew members divided into two working crews: the port and starboard crew. They raised sails in unison shouting, “2-6 heave…2-6 heave” until the team accomplished its task and the wooden boat responded and heeled with just a little more speed.
They learned to steer a proper course through six-foot swells driven by a hard 20-knot wind from the northeast which gave them a whole new meaning for focus. Others were doused with the warm bay waters when the bow dipped into a larger than usual wave leaving a laughing, yet wet student. At night, they took hour-long watches using three bearings to ensure the anchor wasn’t slipping and marking those coordinates in a log every 30 minutes. A few times I could hear their gasps as they looked at the bounty of stars that floated over Mobjack Bay. Three of them, along with one of the eight Schooner crew members, would sit for an hour and gaze upward mesmerized by something they don’t see under urban lights.
They were learning something not taught in the physical classrooms at school. They were learning and feeling the awe and wonder for the world in which we live. To be able to recognize and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us is a life skill that will bring them immense gratitude. It’s one of those skills rarely discussed but so critical in emotional intelligence. These students were getting it. In one