Elementary Schoolers ‘Follow the Voyage’ to earn their sea legs

Feb 15, 2023

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy will soon be retiring its training vessel, the TS Kennedy, in favor of a new ship.

For opinions on what the new ship should look like, the Academy turned to an unlikely focus group — Elizabeth Hayes’s fourth grade class at Wareham Elementary School. 

On Monday, Feb. 13, fourth graders wrote letters to Captain Michael Campbell about what they felt should be included in the TS Kennedy’s replacement.

Kallie Alsheimer said that crew members should have bigger sleeping quarters.

“They are probably wanting to go home to a big bed,” Kallie wrote. “I think [their beds] would be uncomfortable to sleep on. And I don’t like small spaces so I wouldn’t like it there.”

Brenna Cardoza said that the new ship should have a movie theater.

Ricardo Clermont said that it should have a frozen yogurt machine. 

The letters marked the end of Follow the Voyage, a nautical learning unit for the Elementary School’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) students.

The students learned about the Academy’s Sea Term, in which students sail around the world on a training ship to experience life at sea. 

“The kids get to learn about everything ocean, sea and maritime-related,” Hayes said. 

Many Elementary School staff members have relatives on the TS Kennedy. 

At the beginning of each class, students received updates about the ship as it made its way to Puerto Rico, Barbados, Aruba and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Captain Campbell sent a daily letter to the entire student body. His captain's log from each day was incorporated into that day’s class. 

“It’s been very cool,” said third grader Joshua Robbins, “seeing and hearing about what they’re doing.” 

Third grader Catie Lariviere learned one very important lesson from the classes.

“Don’t look over the boat because you might fall in,” she said. “I did that before, and I fell in the water and I almost drowned.”

“You almost drowned?” Asked third grader Rylee Mullen.

“I was three years old back then!” Catie replied. 

Groups of third and fourth graders learned the science of shipbuilding by designing and building miniature lifeboats. The tin foil, egg carton, paper cup and popsicle stick lifeboats had to fit 75 “passengers” (actually tiny building blocks) without capsizing.

Hayes explained that the project teaches communication, teamwork and mathematical principles.

Catie’s group made their lifeboat look like a spider, because, as she explained, “everyone knows sharks are afraid of spiders.”

“No they’re not!” Rylee said.

“Yes they are,” Catie insisted.

Some students said that the Follow the Voyage program made them want to spend time at sea, while others preferred to remain landlubbers. 

“I think I would get seasick,” Brenna said.

The students also participated in a canned food drive for Damien’s Place Family Food Pantry. Students were asked to collect 132 cans, in honor of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s 132nd anniversary, but they collected a grand total of 757.