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Ocean Classroom Celebrates 30 Years: A New Partnership Sets Sail with SEA

Scott Allenby

In the fall of 1994, former faculty member David Pilla launched a trimester at sea program at Proctor called Ocean Classroom. That bold vision set the course for an evolution in Proctor’s off-campus program offerings that has since changed the lives of more than 400 Proctor alumni. The goal of the program was, and is, simple: expose high school kids to the power of living at sea while connecting their learning to the ocean, its ecosystems, and its history. Thirty years and many evolutions later, a group of 22 intrepid sailors gathered at the Sea Education Association campus in Woods Hole, MA to embark on Proctor’s 30th year of Ocean Classroom voyages. 

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom

In April, Proctor announced an exciting new partnership with Sea Education Association (SEA). For the past 51 years, SEA has served as a leader in sail training programs and is considered to be the gold standard in sail and ocean education at both the high school and collegiate levels.  Proctor students will both spend time on SEA’s campus in Woods Hole and aboard the steel hulled 134 foot, 158 ton brigantine schooner SSV Corwith Cramer. As parents toured the ship on Thursday with SEA educators and Ocean Classroom Program Director Brooks Bicknell ‘77, they were blown away by the on-board oceanographic laboratory, accommodations, map room, and other features that will allow them to explore the Atlantic over the coming months.

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom

Proctor has worked with SEA to design a custom program that will mirror SEA’s college programs whereby Proctor students will spend an initial portion of the term at the Woods Hole campus involved in interactive, hands-on coursework where they will build the skills in preparation for research aboard the vessel and for the voyage. The ensuing voyage will see students sailing from Woods Hole to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia where they will focus on fisheries, wildlife, and the history of whaling, before continuing on to Bermuda where they will study human impacts on climate and ocean plastics. The third leg of the voyage will see students sail from Bermuda to Charleston, focusing their studies on human movement, trafficking, and migration across oceans. The final leg of the journey will have students transit back to Woods Hole where they will finish research projects in preparation for a final symposium to be held at Proctor on November 9. 

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom

The program’s curriculum will be organized into two units, the first on shore at SEA’s campus in Woods Hole and the second on board the SSV Corwith Cramer. The shore component introduces students to the foundations of understanding the ocean and the history of human interactions with marine spaces and resources. Grounded with this framework for understanding major questions in oceanic studies, students will design group research topics onshore that address the questions they find most compelling. Then, by collecting samples and data aboard SEA’s oceanographic research and sailing vessel they will gather the data they need to complete their projects upon return to campus in Woods Hole before delivering their results to the broader Proctor community in a final symposium on the Proctor campus at the end of the program.

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom

For the past thirty years, both Proctor and SEA have served as leaders in the sea education industry. Our paths have crossed, but never united, and we are thrilled to see how this new partnership will transform not only the experiences of this fall’s Proctor crew, but the future of at sea education for high school students. Last spring, SEA President John Wigglesworth commented, “Ocean Classroom at SEA is a partnership that, in many ways, has been in the makings for decades. I am pleased that Proctor Academy and the Sea Education Association are now shipmates.” 

Ocean Classroom Program Director Brooks Bicknell ‘77 adds, “To see the confluence of Proctor’s Ocean Classroom Program and SEA’s program is remarkable. We are excited to have Kara Baird ‘20 (a 2019 Ocean Classroom alum aboard Roseway) on board as a crew member this fall and to have the ship captained by Pamela Coughlin who captained our program with Sailing Ships Maine last year and worked for SEA for fifteen years earlier in her career. Proctor and SEA’s work has been interwoven for years, and we are thrilled for this new partnership to take sail.” 

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom

As our students prepare to set sail, research, learn, and live their lives to the fullest, we thank SEA for their partnership and our parents for their trust in Proctor and the life-changing programs we are able to offer. Be sure to stay tuned for updates from Ocean Classroom throughout the fall trimester as students learn what the phrase Ship, Shipmates, Self truly means. 

Learn more about Proctor's Ocean Classroom Program! 

Check out more photos from Ocean Classroom 2023! 

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