Founded by a parent volunteer, Steve Sinnett, in 1992. Its purpose was “to provide an opportunity for children and adults to learn together with the outdoor world as their classroom.” Through the years it continues to demonstrate to students and their parents that “learning has no limits.” Students are given the chance to expand their horizons in a safe atmosphere. Curriculum, fun discovery and cooperative learning are well blended.
As each school year begins, the 4/5 class boards the schooner, Alabama. For the 4th graders, this is their first introduction to maritime life on a large schooner. For 5th graders it is a chance to revisit a magical week from the past and tackle new challenges that they might not have been ready for the previous year. Overall, students spend their first full week of school as active participants learning about wind, tide, weather and how they effect the conditions to sail. They also have a chance to listen to an oral history of the surrounding waters given by the captain of the boat. This helps them understand what it might have been like to be at sea over 100 years ago. The trip itself is the best possible atmosphere for the concept of emersion in the classroom, as the waters around Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands take on a new perspective.
In February all fifth graders travel to Sugarloaf Maine for another week of living and learning together. Students and their chaperones live in condominiums, “family style”. Students have the advantage of learning or improving their skiing skills at one of the best ski facilities in the country. They receive lessons in the morning from qualified instructors, break for lunch, school lessons and then are back out on the mountain to practice their skills for the afternoon.
This trip provides a wonderful opportunity for the fifth graders to challenge themselves physically, receive some individual academic instruction, and have some time alone, as a class, to reflect on their final year at Chilmark.
In June the 3rd and 4th graders take a kayaking trip together in our local waters. The goal of this Outing Program trip is to give the future fourth graders a chance to bond with their new 5th grade classmates prior to entering the new school year.
DATES AND FUNDRAISING
These experiences are wonderful and they are expensive. The Chilmark School supports the program with a portion of their yearly budget going towards the cost of sending their staff members. Therefore the bulk of the responsibility falls on the individual families either through fundraising or from their own pockets.
We believe that no child should ever be excluded due to finances. Therefore the program depends on the active participation from students, parents and the community.