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"Get 'em out, get 'em muddy and get 'em wet."

A great school where students learn marine biology and boat builing.


Source: Courant Herald, by ROBERT A. FRAHM,

NEW HAVEN -- As her second-period class begins, high school student Jessica Rodriguez peers into a light fog, asks "Is everyone secure?" and then nudges the throttle forward on a 50-foot research boat.

Rodriguez, a 16-year-old junior in an Ozzy Osbourne sweat shirt, watches the radar as she chugs into Long Island Sound at the helm of the Island Rover, the latest addition to a fleet of boats at one of the state's most unusual schools.

JUSTIN SMITH, 16, of Old Lyme casts his net into New Haven Harbor for bunker, bait he will use in an aquaculture fishing class at the Sound School, where he is a sophomore. Smith catches a 6:30 a.m. train in Old Lyme to get to the New Haven school, and because he sails after school, he often gets home between 6:30 and 8 p.m. (SHANA SURECK)

"It's not like driving a car," Rodriguez said. "There are no stop signs, no roads, just water everywhere."

It's part of a normal day at the Sound School, a New Haven public school that has become a popular attraction for students in the city and nearby suburbs with its array of programs from boatbuilding to marine biology.

The school is one of 19 regional vocational agriculture centers around the state, but one of only two - the other is in Bridgeport - devoted chiefly to aquaculture studies.

Those studies have been expanded this year with the addition of the Island Rover, enabling the Sound School to offer courses such as the vessel operations class teaching basic navigation and operational skills to Rodriquez and her classmates.

"Everything from basic safety to handling the lines to handling passengers, communicating with the crew and operating a larger vessel," said Jack Cardello, an instructor and certified captain who teaches the vessel operations course.

The Island Rover, formerly a recreational fishing boat and island ferry on Lake Erie, won U.S. Coast Guard approval earlier this year to operate as a floating classroom.

The largest of the Sound School's fleet of about 40 boats, the Island Rover is used by students for activities such as collecting marine specimens, taking water samples and giving passenger tours.

SOUND SCHOOL teacher Jack Cardello talks with Jessica Rodriguez of Oxford, as she takes the wheel aboard the Island Rover, the new boat the magnet school students are learning to run. In the background is Drew Garrity, 16, of Branford. (SHANA SURECK)

"The main focus of the vessel is to support our curriculum," Cardello said. "Tomorrow we have a science group. Next Friday we have a marine history class." Students also regularly work as crew on the vessel even for outside events such as a recent weekend sailing regatta.

Vocational agriculture schools have existed in the state for more than a century, but the aquaculture schools in New Haven and Bridgeport emerged in the 1980s in response to the needs of the marine industry along Connecticut's shoreline.

"Who wouldn't want to go to school and go fishing or boating?" said veteran teacher Ned Flanagan. The school emphasizes traditional academic subjects, too, but "we don't try to teach them math only in the classroom. We teach [it] using navigation."

Aboard the Island Rover, students maneuver through New Haven Harbor, watching channel markers and staying alert for other traffic.

"This is really fun," said Rodriguez, who commutes to the school from her home in landlocked Oxford. "I live practically in the country, so you don't get, like, any of this. You fish and sail [here]. ... You can't do that at any other high school. It's very cool."

As the Island Rover pulls back into the dock, the waterfront is filled with students. One group on the pier is counting and measuring oysters for survival and growth studies. A couple of students are repairing outboard motors.

The school operates in several buildings, including a large classroom and laboratory building that underwent a $28 million renovation two years ago. Students are required to take more science and math courses than at a typical high school, and every student must take part in a supervised occupational project, such as working with the National Marine Fisheries Service, on charter boats or in local marine businesses.

Of the 340 students, about half come from New Haven and half from 21 nearby suburbs. Some, such as Rodriguez, are thinking about careers in marine sciences or technology, but others are not.

"I'm going into fashion design," said Nadia Gourzong, 17, a senior from New Haven who is working on a biology project hatching lobsters in a school laboratory. "I love the school," she said, describing it as a place that has taught her to "finish what I start."

"I have responsibility now," she said. "If I don't come to school, the [lobsters] die."

Dale Leavitt, a marine biologist at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, is familiar with the aquaculture schools in New Haven and Bridgeport. Graduates of the two schools have worked in the university's marine laboratory.

"They're very well-prepared, excellent students," Leavitt said. "Kids don't realize they're learning science because they enjoy the subject matter. One of the real benefits of the Sound School and the Bridgeport school is [the students] have immediate access to the environment they're studying. It's a great tool for motivating students. Get 'em out there, get 'em muddy and get 'em wet."


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"People protect what they love."

- Jacques-Yves Cousteau

This site would not be complete without a mention of the red capped Captain him self.. Jacques-Yves Cousteau..








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