Shrouded in clouds and misty skies, the rigging of the Harvey Gamage framed the backdrop of Boston’s skyline to the west of Moakley Dock. Flapping aloft was a well worn Proctor flag, the same flag that flew above Gamage decades ago when it first hosted Proctor students. Each of the 28 send-offs for Ocean Classroom has been different, each special in its own way. While final hugs between the twenty-one students and their families could not happen due to COVID-19 protocols, the excitement and anticipation of the voyage ahead was evident.
When Dave Pilla first imagined Ocean Classroom in the early 1990s, he gathered some of the best minds in the tall-ship industry to brainstorm what a semester at sea program for high school students could look like. The same collaboration within a small, tight-knit tall-ship community helped Proctor pivot quickly to a new ship, the Harvey Gamage of Sailing Ships Maine, when we learned the Roseway would not be able to sail the full itinerary for the fall program.
As parents and students said goodbyes, the reality of the journey ahead began to sink in. There were some tears, but mostly there was encouragement and trust. Each of Proctor’s off-campus programs requires a remarkable trust in the educators responsible for the experience. The prospect of eight weeks at sea amplifies that required trust by our parents.
Core to that trust are the minds and hearts behind the planning and execution of Ocean Classroom. Brooks Bicknell ‘77 (below) took over the leadership of the program after Dave Pilla’s passing in 2018, and has masterfully stewarded the soul of Ocean Classroom through difficult decisions and transitions. By his side are on-board lead educators Holly Buresh and Matthew Ecklund (second photo below with River ‘22) and the crew of the Harvey Gamage. Both Holly and Matthew are seasoned tall-ship educators and veterans of multiple Proctor Ocean Classroom programs. They understand our kids, the power of living and learning at sea, and the full spectrum of emotions our students will experience as they travel the eastern seaboard to Puerto Rico over the next 65 days.
We believe deeply that the best learning happens at the intersection of a personalized academic journey and proximal learning opportunities within a strong, nurturing community. That’s what Proctor does. That’s what Ocean Classroom is at its core. When these twenty-one students step off the Harvey Gamage on November 18, 2021, they will have been transformed by that which they have experienced. We cannot wait to see this journey unfold and feel so fortunate to be able to help facilitate this type of learning for our students.