A Place for Place-Based Learning

By Susan Black

Teachers and students at Maine’s Deer Isle-Stonington High School are winding up a study of the “Deer Isle Boys,” local lobstermen who crewed on yachts that won two America’s Cup races in the 1890s. Marine vocational instructor Thomas Duym says the three-year study will culminate in a book, a play, and a documentary, each a “contribution to our island.”

With support from the National Science Foundation’s CREST program, aimed at improving rural education, stewardship, and technology in 11 of Maine’s island and coastal middle and high schools, the study team members set out to learn all they could about the once-famous sailors. They scoured cemeteries, combed through historical records, and interviewed crew members’ descendents who live on the island.

In 2007, the crew of the U.S.’s contender for the America’s Cup, BMW Oracle, invited the teachers and students to attend spring training in Spain. Recently, the teachers and students traveled to Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport and to Rhode Island’s Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame to search through 100-year-old records on competitive yacht racing.

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