Students sample life on the bay
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:05

DHS freshmen visit the Lady Maryland ship

by Nicole Rodman

    Dundalk High School English teacher Rachel Hartman knows that true learning doesn’t just take place in a classroom.
    Sometimes, in order for students to really understand a concept, they have to leave the comforts of the school and experience life firsthand.
    Twenty of Hartman’s ninth-grade English students got the chance to learn in the real world on Nov. 1 as the class took a field trip to the Lady Maryland schooner on the Chesapeake Bay.
    The trip was planned as part of the class’s study of the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

    Seen through the eyes of young sailor Ishmael, Moby Dick tells the tale of Captain Ahab, a whaling-ship captain obsessed with getting revenge on the ferocious whale Moby Dick.
    While Hartman’s class read the book and discussed it in the classroom, the teacher knew that, in order to truly understand the novel, students had to live it.
    To this end, Hartman organized a trip to the Lady Maryland schooner in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
    Owned and operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation, the Lady Maryland was built in 1985 to serve as a replica pungy schooner.
    Pungy schooners were quick-moving boats that sailed the 19th-century Bay carrying perishable goods such as seafood and produce.
    According to Hartman, who spoke with The Eagle last week, she first got the idea for the trip after working on an externship  at the Port of Baltimore.
    “I wanted my students to learn about the port not only to know what’s in their backyards but to appreciate it as well,” Hartman explained.
    After spending some time at the port, Hartman realized that the only way for her students to truly understand Ishmael’s journey would be to experience a boat-trip for themselves.
    “I thought this would be a great way for students to learn about the life of a sailor and to understand Ishmael’s story,” Hartman noted, adding, “I think they understood it well .... it was freezing!”
    Hartman, school principal Tom Shouldice and 20 ninth-graders braved the elements on Nov. 1 to board the Lady Maryland and experience life on a work boat.
    Prior to the trip, students selected a role to play ­— captain, mate, cabin boy, etc.
    During the trip, students took over the roles they had chosen. They spent the day living like sailors, hoisting the sails, steering the ship and trawling the Bay for plankton and fish.
    Though students got to do almost every job on the ship, there was one task that students didn’t get to undertake.
    “I really wanted students to ‘swab the poop deck,’ but they never got the chance,” Hartman lamented.
    Once the trip was over and students were back inside their warm classroom, they wrote a series of journal entries detailing the trip from the perspective of their character.
    By getting her students out of the school and into a schooner, Hartman taught her class a lesson that will not be forgotten anytime soon.