School is in session at Race Week

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014

When is a regatta more than the sum of its parts?

When it provides a service for more than just the competitors. For the past decade, the organizers of Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week have found important ways to benefit the community with their event. Each year, proceeds from the regatta are donated to support nonprofit sailing organizations in the Charleston area, including “Veterans on Deck” and Charleston Community Sailing. For 2014, the organizers have partnered with U.S. Sailing to support that organization's STEM education initiative - REACH.

Launched in 2012, U.S. Sailing's REACH program is a combination of sailing and STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) for middle school students. Using a 10-point curriculum aligned with national school standards, the REACH program offers lessons using wind data, meteorology and more. The goal of the program is to create partnerships between schools and sailing centers that can ultimately get more kids out on the water and provide them with a unique learning experience. With programs in 200 locations and in five countries, U.S. Sailing's REACH program exposes an entirely new demographic to sailing that otherwise wouldn't have an awareness of the sport.

According to Jessica Servis, who manages the REACH program for U.S. Sailing, “This program focuses on answering all of the questions that kids have when they first get on the water, such as 'What makes a boat sail?' and, 'How does that work?' The program addresses the science of sailing, and it also includes lessons about water chemistry and the marine environment.” Servis explains that the program uses inquiry-based instruction. “We use sailing as a tool to impart STEM lessons. It's very effective and very much in the vein of experiential learning, which can be powerful.”

This year, Charleston Race Week will participate by hosting U.S. Sailing's STEM Educator Course. This one-day course will be offered to local teachers, sailing instructors and leaders from nonprofit organizations who work with middle school students. The world's largest sailboat builder – Groupe Beneteau U.S.A. – will provide 10 scholarships to the course for teachers who work with at-risk students in the Charleston and Marion, S.C. areas.

How powerful is REACH? Just ask Celia Oprinovich, a REACH veteran and lead teacher at Indiana Sailing Association. “I certainly enjoyed my teaching experience with the REACH modules and the educators' class that I participated in at Strictly Sail Chicago. Since then, the modules have totally engaged our 7th and 8th grade students. As a retired middle school math teacher with the Chicago Public Schools, I appreciate the nontraditional, hands-on approach to science and math instruction that these modules offer. The STEM materials motivate even the most reluctant of our learners. But best of all, the learning is fun!”

Charleston Race Week will mark the first time that U.S. Sailing's REACH program has been offered in a regatta setting. According to Servis, the program has the potential to dramatically grow the sport and to enrich the educational experiences of kids across the country.

“The organizers of Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week are pleased to offer the experience at this year's event,” said Event Director Randy Draftz. “The REACH program is a terrific fit for our regatta. We'll be helping teachers find a truly effective way to connect learning for their students, and ultimately, we'll be exposing more kids to the sport of sailing.”


To find out more about U.S. Sailing's REACH program, visit www.reach.ussailing.org. For more information about Charleston Race Week, please visit www.charlestonraceweek.com. You can also follow the event on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

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