Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Sea Affinity of Baltimore Implemented REACH

US Sailing interviewed Sea Affinity Director Steve Maddox recently to learn and share creative ways educational programs are successfully implementing the REACH program. REACH utilizes sailing as an educational platform, challenging youth to embrace education, establish a love of learning and explore productive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) based careers.

Sea Affinity is a perfect match for REACH. They are a life skills development organization that uses sailing and boating education to challenge and enable youth and adults, including those impacted by disabilities, to realize their potential.

Organizations interested in utilizing the REACH program should use this interview as resource and a model.

US Sailing: How did Sea Affinity partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Baltimore to implement REACH?

Steve Maddox: We had already decided to use REACH for Sea Affinity’s spring home school Sailing into STEM program and believed that it would be a great part of an outreach program. During the NSPS (National Sailing Program Symposium), we learned how other programs had partnered with their local Boys and Girls Clubs and were empowered by Wayne Moss’ (Boys and Girls Clubs of America) keynote address. When we returned from NSPS, we sent an email to B&G Clubs of Metro Baltimore asking for an opportunity to discuss the program. Ken Darden, president and CEO, was open about it and set up a meeting with us, including Jeff Johnson, vice president of operations, and Matt Justus, director of programing. We offered to run an after school pilot program at no cost once a week for five weeks. We met with Matt again to review the curriculum and to work out dates for the program.
US Sailing: Describe the characteristics of the students you were working with.

Steve Maddox: The students we are working with through the Boys and Girls Clubs attend Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School. Ninety-one percent of the students in that school receive reduced lunch, and 17.9 percent are habitually truant. The results of the MSA testing of the sixth grade showed 62 percent of the students were on grade level for reading and 67.4 percent for math. The fifth grade MSA scores showed 38.1 percent were on grade level for science. 

The students are placed in the program instead of choosing to participate. Typically, these students show little to no respect for others as evidenced by their talking out of turn, name calling and use of cell phones during the program. Even when these students are interested and know the right answer, they don’t want to show it. There seems to be a perception that it is not cool to be smart.

US Sailing: What were some of the biggest challenges for instructors when implementing REACH?
Steve Maddox: For our initial after school program, the biggest challenge was keeping their attention.  The students had been in a classroom all day and we were trying to ‘teach them more stuff’.  We had to have a lot less sitting and a lot more doing.

We also found that the kids had a little trouble relating to anything outside of their environment. These students had little to no previous exposure to sailing.

We also had some trouble with finalizing scheduling and collecting paperwork (releases and waivers) from the parents and the facility.

US Sailing: Transportation can be a big financial hurdle for sailing centers looking to partner with youth organizations and schools. How did Sea Affinity handle this challenge?

Steve Maddox: We found it was much easier to transport ourselves to them then to provide transportation for them.  For the initial sessions, we went into their facility and taught the modules there with the goal of having them come to us to sail for the last session. Obviously, the modules had to be modified since we couldn’t complete the sailing aspect at their facility. We held the sailing out as a carrot to incentivize the students. For the final session, the B&G Clubs used their van to bring the kids to us. This was the only expense that the clubs had to bear.

US Sailing: In your opinion, what was the biggest impact of the REACH program for the kids of inner city Baltimore?

Steve Maddox: The biggest impact seemed to be that fact that we were there. The kids saw that people from outside their environment came to them and spent time with working with and listening to them – just showing that someone cared. We did hear that the STEM skills we taught did help in their classroom work. 

We also heard that they felt new career possibilities were opened to them. 

US Sailing: What are you plans to implement REACH moving forward?

Steve Maddox: Matt Justus is extremely excited about the program. He wants us to offer it to all of their locations on an ongoing basis. We ran a modified program for their summer day program and currently have plans to run the program at several of their locations this fall.

We are also using the REACH in our fall home school Sailing into STEM program.

*Learn more about US Sailing's REACH program.

Photo credit to Sea Affinity.

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