Inventive, responsive, diverse
PortSide’s WaterStories education programs reflect our interdisciplinary sensibility and our creativity in deploying our ship, location and harbor to teach many topics - and often many at once!
Our programs are growing because, frequently, a school class or after-school program brings us an issue saying “do you have a program about X?” We then create a program.
Also noteworthy is the diversity of the schools with which we work (Title 1 public schools, private schools, NYC schools and international schools, home and alternative schools) - and the topics.
To give you an idea, here are some lists, some stories and some photos.
All these projects are supported in part by an economic development grant from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Education experiences at PortSide this year:
- A visit here is often the first time a New Yorker (young or old) gets on a boat. It's powerful for people.
- Tours of our historic tanker ship MARY A. WHALEN that cover general maritime topics, fuel consumption and distribution, the Clean Water Act, sewage and CSOs, immigrant history, simple machines (STEM), jobs available on the waterfront, women in maritime, and all the boat activity at our working waterfront site. Many visitors learn by coming during TankerTime outside of a formal group visit or program.
- Oil tankers and oil spill prevention
- CTE preservation work on our ship MARY A. WHALEN
- Boating in our kayak and rowboat
- Harbor tours
- Marine life near our ship
- Harbor clean up
- Sandy recovery, resiliency, tides, flood awareness.
- Digital maritime museum Red Hook WaterStories
- Community service (we saw a surge in requests for this experience for youth and adults)
- Community development
- Curriculum development
Some schools PortSide worked with in 2017 (so far)
- South Brooklyn Community High School, Red Hook, Brooklyn
- Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design (WHSAD)
- City as School, alternative high school, Manhattan
- St John’s University, Ozanam Scholars social justice interns
- Stuyvesant High School Environmental Club
- BASIS Brooklyn, private school in Red Hook, 9th & 10th grade
- Apple Home School and Cottonwood micro school, 1st through 5th grade
- Envoys Volunteer Progam – middle school students from international private schools
- Rodeph Shalom, private reform Jewish day school on Upper West Side, 7th and 8th grade
- Dos Puentes MS103, Washington Heights, Manhattan, 4th grade after-school program “First Lego League”
- Summit Academy K-12, charter school in Red Hook. We are developing several programs to do together.
- Cafeteria Culture is developing a program with PS15 elementary in Red Hook, and we’re a partner
Some experiences we offered
CTE summer preservation interns
A first job, a summer adventure, life-changing experiences, the challenges of varnish! For the third summer in a row, this is what we gave summer interns from the CTE high school WHSAD. The school's student are mostly low-income. Here is the story (in their own words and our description of the program). A college intern chose to work with them, and the interaction was great for all. This program also benefits everyone who visits the ship their work improved!
Envoys Volunteer Program – international private school students
"This is great! What's it called? I want to get one!" exclaimed an Australian kid using a rachet socket wrench to build our new floating dock. A consortium of international private schools came to New York to learn about democracy and to engage in community service. We ran a program for 40 of their middle school students and 20 adult chaperones from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Peru, Argentina and others. The youth got a ship tour, a crack at building a float dock and restoration work (sanding the ship exterior). According to one of the chaperones, we were giving a valuable first experience in manual labor to these kids, many of whom are very privileged.
Thanks to our commercial partner on site, Matt Perricone of Lehigh Maritime, for help with the dock building (advice, parts, labor and launch services). Thanks to Lowe's for the discount on the lumber, hardware, sealer and other supplies for the dock!
Apple Home School and Cottonwood micro school
One girl said "best Wednesday field trip ever." In addition to a TankerTour and explaining the container ship in sight, our partner Lehigh Maritime demonstrated the crane on his vessel, delivering a canvas bucket of oranges to the seated students. This trip represents quiet trends in local education: homeschooling (Brooklyn Apple Academy) and micro schools (Cottonwood in Manhattan where all ages are mixed together as in old one-room schoolhouses of the past).
Rodeph Sholom - teaching philanthropy
"One of our 7th grade groups has focused on environmental protection and become especially interested in PortSide New York," said the visit request from Rodeph Sholom, the only N-8 reform Jewish independent school in NYC. They teach their 7th graders philanthropy. Their students identify an area of interest; read about the issues and related local non-profits, research those non-profits via on-line rating services, and then visit to ask management questions and do some hands-on volunteering. They return to school and discuss the non-profits they visited and decide how much to donate to each. They donate from their bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah money. We had six 7th graders visit; they donated $2,000. Thank you, students, for that generous donation! Thank you, Rodeph Sholom, for helping create engaged citizens of the future! The school so liked the experience; they immediately booked their 8th grade class for a visit.
South Brooklyn Community High School, Red Hook
"It the first time on a boat for many of our kids. We're so glad you're right down the street." We get regular visits from “South Brooklyn,” a second-chance high school a few blocks away for students who are truant or drop outs. Their photography class comes as a group or as individual students. Their staff also holds Professional Development meetings on deck during TankerTime.
BASIS Brooklyn in Red Hook
Students from the 9th & 10th grade visited as part of a program to teach students about the Red Hook community where their newly-built private school is located. This lays the groundwork to launch a 2017-2018 community service program in Red Hook.
Dos Puentes 4th grade First Lego League
Why are we impressed with some 4th graders at Dos Puentes elementary school in Washington Heights? Because they are the first people to ask to visit our retired oil tanker MARY A. WHALEN specifically to learn about an oil tanker and how to prevent oil spills! Their questions and visit prompted us to create a new program about oil tankers, how to prevent oil spills and how to minimize damage when oil spills do occur.
City as School
Bike to the boats! The alternative school City as School uses NYC as a teaching site and serves challenging students who don’t fit the system for being advanced, having learning disabilities or discipline problems, etc. They have a great program where they spend several days moving around NYC on Citibikes on a waterfront educational tour. After two years of doing this with us, they are now asking if we can be an internship site.
Collaboration grows our waterfront nature programs
One project combined folks from a high school, a university and a non-profit to benefit schools in Red Hook and elsewhere. The Stuyvesant High School Environmental Club asked to do some environmental volunteering. This triggered a PortSide effort to work with them to grow our “Look Who’s Here” waterfront nature database that will be added to Red Hook WaterStories. Two social justice college interns from St John’s University, Ozanam Scholars recruited the young citizen scientist Emma Garrison from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (who helped us acquire water quality and marine life study equipment) and did outreach to Red Hook schools. This content is then offered to schools and will be uploaded to our e-museum Red Hook WaterStories. Thank you Fujifilm for donating the camera we are using for this project. One of our staff was trained on how to monitor our new Billion Oyster Project basket. Come study oysters here!
Our outreach connected Red Hook youth with special events
- We coordinated with the Navy to get information about Fleet Week tours of ships in Red Hook and shared that with all the schools in Red Hook.
- We participated in a huge, first-time event in Red Hook, the Formula-E electric car race. PortSide was an "Official 2017 FIA Formula E Qualcomm New York City ePrix Local Charity Partner." We informed Formula-E about Red Hook's needs and its interest in sustainability, and encouraged Formula-E to focus their youth engagement efforts in this community. They then brought Red Hook youth to their e-Village, the race, and our ship MARY A. WHALEN for a tour focused on energy issues, which is fitting since our ship is an oil tanker. Thanks Formula-E for your support!
Plans for growth
We are trying to get building space alongside the ship. This will enable us to do so much more: have ADA-accessible program space, run programs that don't fit on the MARY WHALEN due to the ship architecture or cannot be done outside, and not be limited by bad weather and winter weather.
If you would like to help this campaign, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.