When students are routinely using their knowledge for hands-on projects in their community, “When will I ever need to know this?” is no longer a relevant question. 

Imagine a day at school that starts with a math class calculating a navigation plan. Instead of another day of dodge ball, what if students learned to row or sail or swim or right an overturned life raft? A science lesson involving a shellfish count on the beach coupled with a civics lesson analyzing the policies of ocean acidification?

This is place-based learning through a maritime framework, and these experiences are connecting students with land and sea over the course of their careers. 

Through national level research and firsthand experience, we know that place-based learning is powerful and effective. The Maritime Discovery Schools initiative is creating a cohesive framework for compelling experiential and project-based learning throughout a student’s academic career—not limiting education to those maritime experiences but using it as a common thread to connect learning across grade levels and subjects.


This is both a radical approach and one with well documented results. There are numerous examples of schools organized around a theme (the New York Harbor School in Brooklyn, Aviation High School in Seattle, and San Diego's High Tech High to name a few). Our changes depend on the involvement of community partners to enrich learning, and what makes us different is the alignment of our entire district.

We aren't talking about a vocational track, but some students will naturally be interested in exploring in-depth the experiences that could lead to maritime careers. For those students there will be an opt-in high school Maritime Academy available in 11th and 12th grades that will be a “school within a school” and will immerse students into the maritime world.


Guiding principles

There is a direct correlation between a student's education and the health of a community.
 Learning is powerful when it is relevant and applicable.
Hands-on craftsmanship is a complement to intellect.
Our natural setting  is unique, and offers incredible opportunity for learning.