Anchored in knowledge: Students return from schooner STEAM program

Jul 1, 2024

BOURNE — In the middle of Buzzards Bay in the pitch black of night, students aboard the Ernestina-Morrissey sailing vessel studied the constellations, learning about the North Star, as they sat still in the water.

“It was so quiet,” said Aurora Corbett, a Lakeville senior at Apponequet Regional High School. “It was like something I've ever seen before.”

Corbett was one of 16 high school students to be a part of Mass Maritime’s pilot program “Women in STEAM: An Ernestina-Morrissey Experience” for four days and three nights.

Docking back in Bourne Friday, June 28, the students were excited to share all they had learned and experienced over the last week with their families.

Eva Dingee, a Freetown senior at Apponequet Regional High School, said she joined the program because of her interest in STEAM, which stands for Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics.

Students had the opportunity to study water samples under microscopes, learn about water chemistry, explore light in seawater and more.

In addition to learning about science, students worked on their interviewing skills to get to know the crew, how the ship runs and learn about the history of the boat which was built in the late 1800s.

“It was cool watching the crew work together and do crazy things that made no sense and then kind of [help] us learn how,” Dingee said.

Corbett and Dingee agreed that learning the boat lingo was the hardest adjustment for them.

Corbett said she was inspired to join the program by her mother who did a similar program. She said her biggest takeaway from the trip was “responsibility,” which was necessary to keep up with watches and follow the schedule.

Tiffany Krihwan, who has served as the schooner’s captain for three and half years, said watches were divided among crew and trainees, working in shifts. Some of the watch responsibilities consisted of steering the boat, checking all around for debris and other vessel traffic and gathering statistics on the engine.

This was the first overnight program the schooner had since around 2003, Krihwan said, adding how the ship just finished undergoing restoration work. 

“I thought it went really well,” she said. “Mother Nature threw everything at us that she could have — thunderstorms, high winds, no winds, lot of heat, no heat,” but just before sunset Thursday evening, everyone aboard had the opportunity to see whales.

The girls said they enjoyed their time and would consider a trip like it again. However, they did miss having access to a shower. 

Morgan Banville founded the STEAM program alongside professor and chair of Marine Science, Safety and Environmental Protection Heather Burton. Banville is an assistant professor of humanities at Mass Maritime and said when she joined Mass Maritime, she was excited at the prospect of doing some programming in relation to the “historic and iconic schooner.” 

She said the goal was to provide a diverse learning experience for those passionate about science, with a focus on students who may not have had much experience with boating despite growing up on the South Coast.

“That was sort of my experience,” she said. “I'm a first generation college student. I grew up in Dartmouth and hadn't stepped foot on a tall ship before, and I thought what a great opportunity it would be.”