US Sailing and Beneteau Team up for Reach Program

With the help of Beneteau America, US Sailing has implemented its STEM education Reach program in South Carolina to help get kids learning and sailing.

Using sailing as an educational platform, the US Sailing Reach Program creates opportunities for middle-school teachers and youth sailing program directors to work together to teach students sailing, essential academic skills and environmental stewardship.

The program is designed to help schools with their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum. During 2014’s Charleston Race Week, teachers attending the program’s educator course set the grounds for big changes in a South Carolina school district.

Marion County, South Carolina, has suffered an economic downturn, and the education system is feeling the effects. Wayne Burdick, president of Beneteau America, brought 10 teachers from Marion County to Charleston to participate in the Reach Educator Course. The plan was to initiate a STEM learning program within the district to help revitalize student interest in these subjects. For Burdick, Marion County’s struggles hit close to home, as the town of Marion is home to a Beneteau factory that is a large part of the region’s economy.

With the help of Nathan Indeegard, a representative for the Marion school district, a new Reach club was set up at Creek Bridge Middle-High School. Both teachers and students learned about wind speed, buoyancy and sailing, and built anemometers and clay boats to put their newly learned skills into action.

This past March, the students toured the Beneteau factory in Marion. Armed with the new information they had gained through the Reach club, students were enthralled by the boatbuilding process and excited to see what they’d learned in the classroom applied in the real world.

Students were overjoyed when they learned that the same math they had been learning was used to help measure the wood to be cut while constructing the boats.

"Having that connection for these kids is life changing,"said Windy Key, the training communications administrator for US Sailing and a South Carolina native.

Greg Fisher, director of sailing at the College of Charleston, then invited 27 students and six teachers from Marion to visit Charleston and spend a day on the water with the varsity sailing team.

Though only two students had prior experience with sailing, by the end of the day, all 27 students were comfortable with their newly found sea legs and excited about the future of sailing.

The program is ongoing, and the initial success is promising as an example for similar school districts. Burdick has mentioned plans to implement the Reach Program in five more local schools, with the hopes of garnering a similar response and teaching students skills while building awareness of environmental and ocean stewardship.

"Hopefully we'll be able to expand it long term over more schools in Marion and throughout South Carolina," Burdick told NPR's South Carolina Business Review last week in an interview to discuss the US Sailing Reach initiative.

Wayne Burdick and Windy Key discussed the program and the plans for the future to spread the STEM education program to other regions of the South Carolina school system. You can listen to the entire interview here.

The US Sailing Reach program has been For more information on the US Sailing Reach Program, visit their website at www.reach.ussailing.org.

The students and teachers of the Marion school district at College of Charleston for a day on the water.Windy Key/US Sailing
For most of the students, this was their first introduction to sailing.Windy Key/US Sailing
The College of Charleston sailing team taught students the basics before hitting the water.Windy Key/US Sailing
Both students and teachers loved their first experiences on the water.Windy Key/US Sailing
The day of sailing was a great culmination of the skills the students had been learning in the classroom.Windy Key/US Sailing