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How-To Float a Classroom

Originally appears in the Spring 2016 issue

Living on the shores of a lake has its many advantages – beautiful sunsets, days spent at the beach, afternoons exploring local wildlife – but for students in Burlington, Vermont, living by Lake Champlain has provided so much more by way of an unlikely learning opportunity. While most students spend their school days staring out the window longing to be outside, the fourth and fifth graders here are taking their notebooks to the lake. Donning brightly colored life jackets, the students board sailboats and embark on the Floating Classroom, a journey to better understand local water ecology and environmental stewardship.

What started as a simple ecology and stewardship-based program has grown and evolved substantially in the past seven years, and it continues to do so. Between the support of teachers and principals, generous grantors, and the dedicated staff at the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center (CSC), these years have proven that Floating Classrooms is the CSC’s little sailboat that could. And while it wasn’t built overnight, and there is still more to do, we invite you to follow along as we recount our journey and provide some useful tips should you want to start your own sailing-based program.

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Dayna McRoberts is the Education & Outreach VISTA at the Community Sailing Center in Burlington, Vermont, and has worked with the program since May of 2015. Jen Guimaraes is the Associate Director at the Community Sailing Center, and has been managing programs and curriculum for the past 10 years. She is the Chair of US Sailing’s Community Sailing Committee, a US Sailing Instructor Trainer for Smallboat and Reach and a member of their National Faculty.

[i] US Sailing Reach Program