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NESS, HHC Education Partnership Provides Unique Maritime Learning Experience

November 04, 2022

A Hartford HealthCare and New England Science & Sailing Foundation (NESS) partnership that brought marine sciences exposure to students in Behavioral Health Network schools was so successful that it is now being expanded to other school systems.

The partnership began several years ago, bringing oceanography curriculum and field trips to students at Natchaug. After early success, the program was expanded further at BHN schools through a comprehensive, multi-year grant provided by NESS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program.

Now the program is being expanded even further. A free toolkit for any teacher who wishes to integrate environmental experiential learning with students is now available, offering three free lesson plans that incorporate NOAA resources. It is designed to help empower students with leadership, teamwork, confidence and problem-solving skills to ensure academic success. The curriculum includes using marine science, sailing, power boating and adventure sports as learning platforms, on and off the water, for students from all walks of life.

“Our day students and teachers have benefited greatly from the NOAA B-WET Grant and NESS programming by engaging our students on the water and in the classroom. Not only do they receive a hands-on experience while engaging with the curriculum, but they are also supported emotionally to increase their confidence as learners. Our colleagues are also provided with professional development so that the learning is embedded throughout the rest of the programs. It is very exciting to see the new toolkit being shared with the broader community,” said Shawn Cyr, director of schools for Natchaug and Rushford.

NESS recently hosted a free, virtual Experiential Learning in Alternative Education Workshop, which featured a panel of speakers that included Jillian Bucciero, Education Coordinator with Hartford Healthcare Natchaug Clinical Day Treatment Schools, and several other educators from Natchaug and Rushford. The keynote speaker was Connecticut’s Congressman Joe Courtney, a champion of alternative education and the environment.

Program participants worked together to understand and develop best practices and created a free toolkit that helps to inform and support any teacher who wishes to integrate environmental experiential learning with students.

New England Science & Sailing Foundation (NESS) offers a unique education model that empowers students with leadership, teamwork, confidence, and problem-solving skills to ensure academic success. NESS is the first, and only, program of its kind to be accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Their goal is to advance academic opportunities for K-12 students of all backgrounds in both urban and suburban settings.