By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We can bring a maritime theme into the classroom which will allow kids to become closer to the community,” said Port Townsend School Superintendent David Engle while addressing the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
“The entire program will give students something to aspire to and determine how they can contribute to the community in some fashion.”
The “maritiming” of the schools is to be accomplished through a partnership with the Northwest Maritime Center whose director, Jake Beattie, has met with Engle several times to discuss curriculum development.
Engle said there are three aspects of education, preparing for college, preparing for a career and learning citizenship.
Schools have made the most progress in the first category although this is not yet where it needs to be.
Engle called career preparation “a dismal failure,” as the programs geared toward giving practical knowledge on this topic have fallen victim to budget cuts.
“The lack of citizenship instruction is the most profoundly troubling piece, if you don’t have people who are active in their community all bets are off.”
The introduction of a maritime slant to instruction can be accomplished incrementally and on all levels, Engle said.
Those interested in biology can center their instruction on marine wildlife while those with a technology talent will have access to the Maritime Center’s Pilot House which Engle calls “one of the best simulation stations in the world.”
Engle said that “it won’t be a problem” for kids who have no interest in maritime issues since they can provide a gateway to other areas of interest.
A student interested in other situations might incorporate what was learned at the pilot house to develop simulations of space or flight.
And even those with no interest in boats may enlighten themselves with the study or maritime tattoos.
Engle called Port Townsend “eclectic” which is a double edged sword.
“It’s one thing to be eclectic, in Port Townsend we are eclectic cubed,” Engle said.
I don’t have a conversation in this community where I don’t go ‘wow, that’s an interesting perspective,’ I don’t have to wait 24 hours to hear the next viewpoint.
Engle said he has “a high tolerance for disagreement” which makes him open to other viewpoints and ideas.
He said that Port Townsend has its demographic problems, resulting from a relatively high median age of 52 and no plans for attracting and retaining younger people to the region.
Taking advantage of the local maritime identity, which is already in place, will help to accomplish these goals according to Engle.
“We don’t have a lot of young people here so our challenge is to turn this into a place where young people want to live and work, and where they can do something with their lives,” he said.
Engle said the idea to blend maritime subject matter and education is still in an early stage, a meeting to discuss these options is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Maritime Center’s upstairs meeting room. 431 Water St.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.