Education of youth and adults is our priority

PortSide NewYork believes that education should continue after graduation. We educate youth, adults, policy makers and the media about the waterfront, and we use WaterStories on and about the ship MARY A. WHALEN and the waterfront to bring multiple themes to life. 

exciting program growth Thanks to Our new home

After ten years of looking for a long-term, publicly-accessible home, PortSide got such a place for  the tanker MARY A. WHALEN at the end of May 2015.  Our ship is now in a publicly accessible spot during the school year! The first thing we did was run an Open House for Educators Week.  

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About our site and programs

For scheduling a visit call 917-414-0565 or email us at 

Our inventive team creates programs in response to your needs.  

We work with all ages. Our school experience includes elementary, middle and high school, college and graduate school. We have also helped teach college professors. 

We create a strong emotional connection for visitors of all ages.  The diverse groups below all leave PortSide and the MARY A. WHALEN excited by an extraordinary experience.  See the letters at bottom sent by first graders from City + Country School in Manhattan who visited a few days before superstorm Sandy. 

Our site is exciting because we are NOT in a park!  We are surrounded by real working waterfront.  We are on an industrial pier where other ships are docked, several of them under renovation.  Container ships dock and unload right in front of us.  Cruise ships dock on the other side of us. 

Place-based education:  PortSide has used the tanker MARY A. WHALEN and waterfront locations to teach via "place based education," using local sites to teach various subjects.  Since the tanker was a working vessel moving fuel up and from Virginia to Maine from 1938 to 1994 with several waves of immigrant groups as her crew, she is a great platform to discuss fuel consumption and energy sustainability issues, as well as coastal history, urban studies, marine science, ethnic studies, STEM programs of several types and maritime training.  

Job training:  Education at PortSide also includes job training:  we are working with the painters union District Council 9, and a CTE high school the Williamsburg HS of Architecture and Design (WHSAD). 

Specific programs

Simple Machines on the MARY A. WHALEN

Teaching simple machines is part of New York City elementary school curricula.  PortSide has created a program that blends a TankerTour with learning (and finding) simple machines on the ship. This involves a scavenger hunt for simple machines, a ship vocabulary list and ship plan.  The result is a captivating maritime experience where all the simple machines can be touched, one that teaches new words and how to read and see spatial relations on an architectural drawing.  

At the end of the visit, students receive a certificate modeled on the papers documenting sea time that professional Merchant Mariners receive when their hitch (work cycle) on a ship ends.  These certificate souvenirs are very popular. 

PortSide's "Simple Machine" machine

PortSide's Simple Machine Machine is a mobile interactive exhibit which provides a fun and physical teaching experience with an inclinded plane, pulleys, screws and levers as found in the maritime world.  Educational and entertaining, this program is suitable for the classroom, science fairs and street festivals or can be run on the deck of the MARY A. WHALEN or the pier alongside the ship.

Hurricane Sandy & Resiliency  

Photo by Myra Hernandez, Behind the Book

Photo by Myra Hernandez, Behind the Book

PortSide has a lot to offer on this topic from flood awareness and preparedness to emergency response.  PortSide's Sandy recovery work won us a White House award for Sandy recovery work and honors from the NYS Senate. Our President Carolina Salguero was appointed by the Governor’s office to Red Hook’s NY Rising committee, New York State’s program to make communities around the state more resilient. One example is our experience teaching hurricane Sandy to a 3rd grade class from Bedford Stuyvesant in conjunction with the great non-profit "Behind the Book." We had the kids measure normal tide height and height of the surge. We brought in community members for them to interview as requested by Behind the Book and fused a ship tour with WaterStories of what we were doing in various ship spaces before and during Sandy. We explained how we set up and ran an aid center for Red Hook after Sandy.

Dockbuilder Math

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This class can be provided on our ship the MARY A. WHALEN, on the waterfront, or in a classroom, and can be tailored to students from elementary to high school age.  An exploration of math via maritime workplace examples, the class brings life to the subject and can be taught using simple math or real-life trigonometry problems. Hands-on elements, such as tools, sections of wood piling and safety gear, have proven to be a great hit with students and teachers alike.  Whether you are looking for a show-and-tell for first-graders or to understand the calculations of basic barge design (eg, what floats your boat) this program can be configured for you.

Maritime 9/11

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PortSide NewYork curated an exhibit on the mariner's response to 9/11 and installed this on another historic ship, the LILAC, in Manhattan.  Youth from the New York Harbor School and the River Project made special field trips to the exhibit.  PortSide has saved the components of this exhibit to repackage the content into a traveling exhibit that can go to schools or libraries. Please get in touch if this interests you.

Teaching college students

 We have worked with several colleges that have used the ship for classes as varied as museum exhibit design, city planning/waterfront policy and American Studies.  We have also given lectures on campus. We envision future partnerships with colleges to teach teach historical research, mapping, library science (working on our archive), conservation and more.  PortSide has provided quality educational and work experiences for interns from colleges that include CUNY, Pratt, Princeton, and Brown, as well as students from Germany and Spain.

Teaching college professors

PortSide has worked with a City Tech program Along the Shore which trains college professors in how to use place-based education when teaching their students. This program brings community college professors from around the country to study Brooklyn's Industrial waterfront. We outlined for the professors how the MARY A. WHALEN could be a teaching tool. This new movement of "place-based education" is central to PortSide's MO.