The Creative Classroom: Teaching Abroad on a Tall Ship

Posted on April 22, 2020 by

Ever wonder what it’s like to teach math on board a tall ship? Enjoy this guest blog from Class Afloat faculty alumni, Kyle O’Donnell.

As a math teacher, I often found it difficult to make experiential connections to my curricula. However, one experience that sticks with me involved a small favour for the Captain.

As it went, the boat’s deck needed a fresh coat of paint, so the Captain checked his records to see how much they ordered the previous time. In doing so, he remembered that the order was much too big and they were left with a surplus of paint. The Captain decided to reevaluate the area of the deck in order to determine a more accurate number for the subsequent order of paint.

Meanwhile, my Math 11 at Work class was working through a unit on surface area and volume and had previously done work with scale diagrams. I took the opportunity to take the Captain’s task and turn it into a learning experience. I had my class work together to create scale diagrams for the ship’s decks and to calculate the area of both the main deck and the bridge deck. In doing so, students had the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a hands-on way that also served the ship community.

Relation-Ships Matter Most

Beyond this small connection between the curriculum and ship life, the aspect of teaching with Class Afloat that resonated with me the most were the relationships formed with the students on board. Taking part in this program as a faculty member is much different from teaching in a traditional school. You are still an educator, mentor, and leader in the community, but on top of that, you spend almost every waking moment with your students for nine months.

Kyle O'Donnell - Class Afloat

This might frighten some teachers out there, but trust me, it is an incredibly rewarding experience. With such a tight knit community on board, you get a chance to learn so much about all of the students and see just how unique and impressive they are. You work with them in the classroom, eat meals with them, guide them through the experience as a Watch Dog, haul lines together on deck, explore different countries with them, watch them perform (or perform with them) at Coffee Houses, and much much more. These are the moments and the bonds that make being a faculty member with Class Afloat so special. These are the moments and the bonds that I’ll never forget.

Learn more about Kyle and his experience teaching on board Class Afloat in this Alumni in the Spotlight feature.