Freshman Orientation Combines Teambuilding and Maritime Traditions

Sturgis East Class of 2016

Sturgis East Class of 2016

Sturgis West Class of 2016

Sturgis West Class of 2016

When freshmen first arrive on campus, they are met with many unfamiliar faces because students come to Sturgis from every town on Cape Cod and several towns off Cape.  Each year in mid-September, Sturgis freshman spend a day away from campus to attend a teambuilding field trip at Camp Burgess in Sandwich. During the day, Camp Burgess leaders, grade 9 Sturgis teachers and freshmen break into small groups to participate in a variety of teambuilding activities.

Camp Burgess

On the Run at Camp Burgess

Teambuilding activities involve problem-solving tasks designed to help group members learn how to work together effectively.  An important part of teambuilding involves reflection and discussion about the activity, including how participants approached the situation and what they learned.

The Camp Burgess Challenge Course and teambuilding program stimulates group interaction and promotes teamwork in a safe and fun environment.  Goals include:

  • Building trust, cooperation, and teamwork.
  • Improving communication.
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution.
  • Re-energizing group members.
  • Providing focus for developing group goals.
Camp Burgess

Camp Burgess

“One Thing I’ll Remember:” Journal Entries by Sturgis Freshmen regarding Camp Burgess:

“One thing I will remember about Camp Burgess is all of the games.  My favorite game was the one where you jumped from one block to another by swinging on a rope. One block was the Cape, one was Martha’s Vineyard, and the other Nantucket.  When you reached Nantucket, you weren’t allowed to speak and on Martha’s Vineyard, you could only say ‘Martha’s Vineyard,’ etc.,  but it was so much FUN!”- Maria Girardin

“One thing I will always remember…Sam was my partner and we had to stand on the ropes holding onto each other, but the ropes always got wider and wider apart.  It was difficult because the wires were so shakey and bouncy.  We both had spotters, and I remember trying to hold onto Sam by watching his feet.  He would count down for us to step. Walking along the wires was the hardest part.  When we began to fall, we both fell backwards.  Sam and I did get the farthest out of the group and it was a very fun but difficult activity.  I will never forget about this!”- Meg Borowski

“I will remember when my whole group jumped through one jump rope at the same time. I also enjoyed meeting new people and the team building experience.  One thing I liked was when we had to work together to solve challenging puzzles and games.  I also liked getting a break from the traditional school day and making new friends.  At the end of the day, we all went down to the harbor where we would be graduating in four years, signed the ships log, and rang the bell.  I enjoy that type of tradition and I look forward to signing out and ringing the bell in four years!”- Meghan Rogers

Maritime Traditions

Eric Hieser Addresses Sturgis East Class of 2016 at Aselton Park

Eric Hieser Addresses Sturgis East Class of 2016 at Aselton Park

At the end of the day, Sturgis freshmen and Grade 9 teachers make their way from Camp Burgess to Aselton Park at Hyannis Harbor, the exact location where Sturgis Graduation takes place in June. Executive Director Eric Hieser awaits them at a table displaying the Sturgis Log and Ship’s Bell. Once freshman are assembled on the lawn, the annual ceremony for new Sturgis students to sign the log and ring the Sturgis bell begins. The following biography is read during the ceremony each year:

Welcome Aboard!

Journal of William Sturgis

William Sturgis

William Sturgis

Sturgis Charter Public School was named for William Sturgis, a native son of Barnstable. He was born February 25, 1782 in his family home which now forms the heart of the historic Sturgis Library, the oldest library building in the United States.

William’s boyhood education was overseen by his mother, Hannah Mills Sturgis, the daughter of a Harvard clergyman, who instilled in her son a lifelong passion for learning and a devotion to humanistic principles. William’s knowledge of the sea was acquired through his youthful Cape Cod experiences as well as from his father, William, a respected shipmaster who died in the South Pacific when his son was fifteen years old.

Following his father’s death, William embarked on the first leg of his own nautical career by immersing himself in an intensive study of navigation, mathematics and world history. In 1798, he took up the sailor’s life as a “green hand” on the Northwest-bound vessel, “Eliza.” Three years later, at the age of 19, he became Captain William Sturgis, the youngest shipmaster in the American merchant fleet.

Captain Sturgis served for nine years as a commander, merchant and diplomat aboard ships that sailed throughout the Northwest and the Orient. During this period, he continued to enlarge his knowledge of human nature and history through a self-designed program of classical studies.

He formed a successful shipping firm which dominated the Pacific Northwest and China routes for the next thirty years. At the same time, he demonstrated great aptitude for statesmanship and public service as a representative to the Massachusetts Legislature (1814 – 1845). He was particularly distinguished for his role as an advocate of social responsibility.

Shortly before his death, Captain Sturgis, the self-made “merchant prince,” purchased his family homestead for the purpose of establishing it as a public library. He continues to be honored as we at Sturgis Charter Public School, respect and uphold the social and educational principles of our namesake.

Sturgis West Class of 2016 lines up to sign log book

Sturgis West Class of 2016 lines up to sign log book

Signing Aboard

Signing Aboard – Paul Marble Sturgis East Principal
Assists Freshmen

Just as William Sturgis signed on board for his first voyage, students at Sturgis Charter Public School must commit themselves to the challenge ahead of them and “sign on for a term of duty. As each student accepts the responsibility of the four-year commitment, he/she signs on the first line, signifying his/her request to board for a new voyage.  Upon completing the graduation requirements, he/she “signs out,” by signing next to their original signature signifying the voyage was completed.

William Sturgis was 15 – about the age of incoming students when he began intensive studies to further his career. And four years later, the same time required for a student to complete their duty at Sturgis, he achieved his goal to become the youngest captain in the American merchant fleet. Much can be accomplished in four years and each student’s goal can be achieved.

After each student’s name is called, and they register in this log, a ship’s bell will toll. The next voyage is about to begin.

Freshmen Visit Cape Cod Maritime Museum

Remains of the Sparrow Hawk

Remains of the Sparrow Hawk

CCMM logo_footerAs part of their orientation to local maritime traditions, Sturgis freshmen visit the Cape Cod Maritime Museum (CCMM) during a US History class. On September 28th, all Sturgis East freshmen US History classes walked down to the Maritime Museum for a presentation by Shannon Eldredge, CCMM Administrator and Educator, on the voyage of the Sparrowhawk.  In response to the presentation, Matt Fetzer, Sturgis East History Teacher, provided a very interesting reflection on the Sparrowhawk which he wrote in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (see below).

The tradition of visits to the museum began in 2004 when Lead History Teacher Jim Barrasso met Mark Wilkins, a Maritime Historian who was  CCMM Curator at the time. (Mr. Wilkins is currently the Associate Exhibits Developer at Mystic Seaport Museum.)  Soon after their meeting, Mr. Barrasso was invited to become an Education Adviser at the museum. The collaboration between Sturgis and CCMM proved significant because it helps Sturgis achieve one of the missions stated in our original charter:

“To motivate its students to achieve at high levels, Sturgis will draw on Barnstable’s marine environment and maritime heritage to develop the esprit de corps and individual curiosity, character, and courage necessary for all to succeed.” (1998)

Over the years, Sturgis freshmen have attended presentations at CCMM on a variety of topics: the history of cooperation between Pilgrims and Native Americans; life saving stations and lighthouses; and most recently, the voyage of the Sparrowhawk.  Following the presentations, students have an opportunity to view the museum’s exhibits.

In addition to initiating the museum visits, Mark Wilkins also served as a guest lecturer in Sturgis history classes. Over the last 8 years, he gave several lectures including: “Naval Warfare in the War of 1812”; “Naval Warfare in the Civil War with Ironclad Ships” (and how they changed naval warfare forever!); and “The Sinking of the Lusitania and Entry of America into World War I.” His lectures not only helped educate students about maritime history, they also provided an opportunity for students to witness the work of a contemporary historian.  Following a lecture by Mr. Wilkins  in 2008, Mr. Barrasso documented the visit on his IB History blog:

Mark Wilkins Lectures at Sturgis in 2008

Mark Wilkins Lectures at Sturgis in 2008

Mark Wilkins presented a summary of a research paper he had written for a masters history class at Harvard University. His research involved whether the United States would have entered WWI if the Lusitania had not been sunk.

Having Mr. Wilkins talk to our class met several objectives for IB History:

1. He taught us about practices of WWI, including submarine warfare and the use of propaganda.

2. He talked about how to conduct historical research, which we HAVE done already this year and WILL do again.

3. He talked about how to find good sources for research and how to evaluate them for usefulness, which is very important for our study of history.

Mr. B’s IB History Blog: Naval Historian Visits Class! <>

Wreck of the Sparrow Hawk Reflection

By Matt Fetzer, Sturgis East History

As I write this reflection about a shipwreck from 1626, the Sparrow Hawk, I do so in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Nature’s fury was on full display Monday night. The view from space of a swirling storm a thousand miles wide reminds us all that we are not in charge of our fate. The devastation in New Jersey and New York City was epic. That was on land.  At least there was some relief inland. At sea, there is no relief. It is you and God.

In Sandy’s wake on Monday, two Americans were lost at sea as they followed their love of sailing in the HMS Bounty of movie fame to the bottom of the ocean. Daring rescues were captured on film of the survivors. One of my colleagues at Mayflower II,  knew the dead. Re-enactors do such things as they uniquely see the joy in the adventure of the sea. It is a romance that I fully understand. But fate can be cruel.

I preface my remarks as such because the terror of the Sparrow Hawk crew must have been similar. They were lost at sea with a dying Captain. We can never know for sure, but it seems credible that many expected to die. They wrecked on Cape Cod in a desperate bid for survival. What remains of that wreck is on display at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum on South Street across from Aselton Park.

Our freshmen students were fortunate enough to take a trip there on September 28. They were given a staff presentation about many aspects of the ship and the journey. As a historian and one who has read Plymouth Governor William Bradford’s account many times, I was impressed. Our students were treated to a true relic of history. The discussion left a sense of a crammed ship using crude instruments to flee European poverty and politics. Many came to own land, original claims to the American dream. The terror of the sea was always there. This begs so many questions about colonial life in the 17th century. That is why I work at Mayflower II when I have the chance.

What the Sparrow Hawk and Hurricane Sandy show is that nature’s fury is timeless. We are eternally at her mercy. As Hermann Melville reflected when the Pequod sunk in its showdown with Moby Dick, “the sea rolled on just as it did 5000 years ago.” Indeed it does.

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