Writing Stem to Stern

Image: Nathaniel Philbrick
Author and Historian Nathaniel Philbrick speaks to students at Bennie Dover Middle School in New London as part of the “Writing Stem to Stern” program on Monday, March 14, 2016.

Historian and author Nathaniel Philbrick kicked off the Museum’s newest education program in New London on Monday. Addressing more than 50 students gathered in the gymnasium of Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, Philbrick talked about how he is inspired by history and the stories he gets to tell and the process he goes through to write a book.

This was the first session of “Writing Stem to Stern,” a new initiative by the Mystic Seaport Education Department to use maritime history and the resources of the Museum to help young people become better writers. Students at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London, CT, will have the opportunity to participate in the three-year program to immerse themselves in the maritime history of their city and the region to help them become better writers. Each year, 50 students will participate in various activities at the school and at Mystic Seaport that will serve as prompts for them to write about their experiences. The “Stem to Stern” program will feature Philbrick and all that he has accomplished as an author to serve as an exemplar and catalyst for these students to reach their highest potential as writers.

The learning plan includes writing workshops, field trips to Mystic Seaport for hands-on activities, and in-school interaction with chantey singers and historic role players. Students will produce a culminating writing project for presentation to Philbrick, the New London School Board, and Mystic Seaport trustees.

School officials were pleased with the reaction the first session generated.

Image: Nathaniel Philbrick addresses students
Students in grades 6-8 will be able to participate in the three-year program.

“In addition to asking questions, students were able to relate to Mr. Philbrick’s commitment and integrity towards his work,” said Dr. Alison Burdick, principal of Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School. “We are looking forward to expanding this partnership through the thoughtful collaboration with Mystic Seaport staff, and providing our students with the opportunity of a lifetime by providing a classroom beyond the walls of our school.”

“Writing Stem to Stern” is made possible by patrons of the 2015 America and the Sea Award Gala that was held in New York City last October. The 2015 honoree was Nathaniel Philbrick, and guests at the event enthusiastically offered their support to fund the program, which was developed in consultation with Philbrick and reflects his personal passion for today’s youth to have the desire and skills to be excellent writers.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of school groups, but I have to say, the students at Bennie Dover really impressed me. They were polite, enthusiastic, curious, and asked some really great and thoughtful questions,” said Philbrick.

“This program has been fun to put together, not just because of Nathaniel Philbrick’s personal involvement and enthusiasm for the subject, but it has allowed us to marshal and use our resources in new and different ways, much as we strive to do with our Mystic Seaport for Educators website in the digital sphere,” said Sarah Cahill, director of Education at Mystic Seaport.