Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Receives Grant from Vermont Community Foundation to Partner with Vergennes Schools

lcmm Education

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum received a grant of $20,000 from the Vermont Community Foundation’s Innovations and Collaborations program to expand education opportunities for elementary and middle school students at Vergennes Union Schools. “We are thrilled to receive the award,” says Mike Smiles, LCMM Executive Director.  “This grant allows the Museum to build its capacity to serve the Vergennes Schools’ innovative year-round after-school programs. The project is an important first step in redefining how the Museum can make a difference to students’ success through a maritime lens for learning. We are grateful to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent JoAn Canning, Mayor Bill Benton, and Board Superintendent Jeffry Glassberg for their vision of expanding opportunities through community partnerships.”

The Innovations and Collaborations grant program supports nonprofits to collaborate across issues and sectors to find new ways of working to develop shared solutions to community needs. According to the Vermont Community Foundation, in this round, 13 extraordinary projects that represent the very best of innovative nonprofit work in Vermont were chosen from a pool of 21 applicants for first year funding. The new project, dubbed “The STEAMSHIP Program,” will help Addison County youth meet state and local standards in core academic subjects (such as math, science, technology, engineering, English, arts, and social studies) while participating in a broad array of after school enrichment activities that complement their regular academic programs.

With the Maritime Museum students have a chance to build submersible robots out of PVC pipe, create their own documentary films, or learn chart making skills – all linked to their new Act 77 Personalized Learning Plans. It’s awesome!” said Jill Strube, who directs the Vergennes Schools’ FUSION after-school enrichment programs.

“We are excited to engage Vergennes students in expeditionary learning activities that connect them to the maritime history of Lake Champlain as a whole and, more specifically, to the deep maritime heritage of the City of Vergennes,” says LCMM’s Deputy Director Erick Tichonuk. “This new collaboration directly connects students to the Museum’s nautical archaeology program, educational curricula, and educators for in-depth learning through after-school programs.

Using LCMM’s experience in nautical archaeology, ship building, boat building, robotics, exhibit design, and primary source research as a framework, students will participate in team-oriented projects that will serve both as civic engagement and a celebration of learning through student-designed exhibits, original research and data collection, and 8th grade capstone presentations.

In 2012, Vergennes Union Middle and High School were inducted into the League of Innovative Schools with a goal to promote innovative strategies, to establish a network of best practices that is directly linked to 21st century learning, and to promote greater educational equity and opportunities for all students. The schools employ Expeditionary Learning, a program that puts emphasis on experiential learning.

The formal partnership between LCMM and VUS was initiated in the fall of 2015, when students built a SEAPERCH Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) used for underwater exploration. The results of this first semester can best be seen in this very short and exciting video of the students’ accomplishments:

Currently, students are working with LCMM videographer Kris Jarrett to produce a documentary on a Lake Champlain shipwreck. LCMM’s Deputy Director Erick Tichonuk recently met with after-school program coordinator Jill Strube to review partnership goals and plans for 2016. “Important goals for the project include greater involvement and accomplishments by individual students, and developing a program that can be a model for museums and other informal education partners working with schools throughout Vermont and beyond,” Tichonuk concludes.