Freshman Orientation Combines Teambuilding and Maritime Traditions

West Class of 2018

Welcome Aboard West Class of 2018

East Class of 2018

Welcome Aboard East Class of 2018




Freshmen Learn about Balance

  Teambuilding at Camp Burgess



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 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.

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.

High Ropes

Sturgis West Students on the Ropes

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.


Maritime Traditions

Eric reads Sturgis history

Executive Director Eric Hieser Addresses Freshmen at Hyannis Harbor

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 each 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 begins. They learn the history of William Sturgis, sign the Sturgis log book and ring the ship’s bell. Just as Sturgis signed on board at sixteen for his first voyage to China, Sturgis freshmen commit to the four-year challenge ahead by signing on for the voyage. During Sturgis graduation in the same location at Hyannis Harbor, seniors sign out next to their original signature in the ship’s log book signifying they completed the voyage.

  William Sturgis, 1782 – 1863

Shipmaster, Legislator, Philanthropist

The following biography is read during the ceremony each year:
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.

Journal of William SturgisHe 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.

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, they sign on the first line, signifying their request to board for a new voyage.  Upon completing the graduation requirements, they “sign out,” beside their original signature signifying the voyage was completed.

Logbook signing Sturgis West 4954

West Students Sign the Log

East Students Sign the  Log

East Students Sign the

Sturgis was 15 – about the age of incoming students when he began intensive study to further his career. Four years later, the same time required to complete high school, 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.

At the end of the ceremony, when each student’s name is called, they come forward to sign the log book and ring the ship’s bell  Their voyage is about to begin.




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