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High School at Sea

Science at SEA

Science at Sea does not have any upcomming program dates at this time.

Sea Education Association (SEA) continues to monitor advice from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, helping to guide our thinking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Detailed mitigation plans are developed for each program individually. Read a sample plan.

Program Overview

Science at SEA is a 4-week program for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, as well as recent high school graduates, which focuses on the coastal and offshore marine environment around Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The program includes a shore component on the SEA campus in Woods Hole and a sea component aboard the Sailing School Vessel (SSV) Corwith Cramer. During the shore component, students study the marine environment from a variety of perspectives: scientific, historical, literary, and nautical. During the sea component, students study offshore oceanography and nautical science, and sail as active members of the ship’s crew. Academic programming is scheduled throughout each day, including on weekends. Coursework includes lectures, discussions, laboratory activities, and local field excursions; all introducing students to the study of oceanography, the history of humanity's relationship with the oceans, and modern maritime issues. Teamwork, leadership, and sense of community are the underlying values of SEA’s academic curriculum. Participants not only grow as students, but as global citizens and individuals.

Academic Coursework

Introduction to Oceanography: Students study marine organisms, the structure of the earth, marine geology and sediments, wind-driven circulation, thermohaline circulation, and the chemistry of seawater.

Introduction to Nautical Science: Students learn about piloting and chartwork, ship handling, sail theory, life at sea, safety, seamanship, ship stability, aerodynamics, and hydrodynamics.

Introduction to Maritime Studies: Students are introduced to the American maritime heritage during the Age of Sail, with emphasis on the local New England region.

Campus Life

Students live in cottages on SEA's campus during the shore component. While the cottages are co-ed, students are assigned to single-occupancy bedrooms and have single-sex bathrooms. Each cottage is closely supervised by an adult Resident Advisor who lives with them on campus and who also serves as a Teaching Assistant. Life in each cottage revolves around its common/dining area, where students help prepare meals, share cleaning duties and live in community with one other. The food is excellent and plentiful. After dinner, there is an evening activity, followed by quiet time for study and using the library, student lounge, and computer facilities. This environment is conducive to the underlying goals of teamwork and community building.

The resident advisors lead evening and weekend activities. These activities may include team-building workshops, special evening musical entertainment, and movie nights. Students often join together to play volleyball, soccer, and Frisbee on campus. As COVID protocols allow, they may also have opportunities to explore the local bike path, walking trails, and beaches around campus with the supervision of their resident advisors.

Student Experience at Sea

Following the shore component, Science at SEA students continue their program with an offshore sailing and oceanographic expedition aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, one of two sailing research vessels operated by SEA. Under the tutorage of professional scientists and crew, they gain hands-on experience conducting oceanographic research, sailing a tall ship, understanding of the complexities of creating and managing marine sanctuaries, and developing crucial leadership and teamwork skills.

At sea, Science at SEA students engage in marine research in the waters off New England. This is a region of much interest to marine conservationists, and we often focus our scientific mission on one of the protected offshore marine environments near Cape Cod – Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary or the Northeast Canyons & Seamounts Marine National Monument. Both are important habitats for rare and endangered species – whales, turtles, seabirds – along with countless other marine organisms. Scientific data collected by Science at SEA students provides critical monitoring of these marine protected areas for key stakeholders. Our scientific studies are given human background context with discussions of the history and policies behind the marine protected areas we visit. Students return home with a broader sense of the ocean’s importance to our planet and the need to preserve this precious resource for future generations.

Central to the SEA experience is the challenge of forming a team to operate a sailing ship at sea; this is accomplished through the sail training and seamanship components of Science at SEA. Teamwork, leadership, community, and a sense of shared mission are core values of all SEA programs, and having students take responsibility for and participate in all operations of a modern sailing research vessel cultivate these life skills. The captain and USCG-licensed mates use instruction in navigation, sail handling and watch leadership to explore communication, thoughtful participation, and a planned approach to tasks – all essential in school, the workplace, and in learning to deal successfully with dynamics or unplanned events. Science at SEA participants grow not only as students, but as individuals and contributing members of a ship’s company. This in turn fosters a deeper understanding of their own potential and ability to influence our world.

Life at sea is fast paced. Activities continue on a 24-hour basis throughout the Science at SEA program, and each student is assigned to a watch team of eight people with whom they rotate throughout a day-and-night schedule. Busy as things are, there is still enough free time to make friends, keep a journal, climb aloft to enjoy sunrises, sunsets, and the night sky, and appreciate the awe inspired by the nature and beauty of the offshore setting.

Science at SEA is an academically rigorous program. In addition to routine watch standing duties that are a part of each student’s experience at sea, lectures, discussions, and written assignments are also part of the learning process. No prior sailing experience is necessary, the desire to learn is required!