ORGANIZATION IMMERSES HUNDREDS OF URBAN STUDENTS IN GREAT LAKES EDUCATION AND SAILING PROGRAMS ON LAKE ERIE
Buffalo, NY – Buffalo Urban Outdoor Education (BUOE) is working with hundreds of Buffalo’s young people in partnership with Closing the Gap In Student Performance, which is a school-based community collaboration led by the Buffalo Public School District, Catholic Charities of Buffalo and the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. BOUE will deliver its Great Lakes Watershed Exploration (GLWE) Program to approximately 1,500 students from the Buffalo Public Schools this year. This program combines classroom-based enrichment lessons in Great Lakes water quality, water pollution and stewardship. The program culminates in a half-day sailing and science expedition on the 73-foot “floating classroom” Spirit of Buffalo.
BUOE Executive Director and Founder Capt. Kate Mini Hilliman explains: “Most of our participants have never been on a boat or on Lake Erie prior to their trip with us so the program is incredibly high-impact; students sometimes arrive in tears and leave laughing and wanting to come back the next day. Experiencing the Great Lakes firsthand gives them a new perspective and impression of their local environment and the freshwater so critical to their lives.”
BUOE was founded in December 2008 and began programming the following spring by offering half-day school field trips called Science Afloat. Since inception, BUOE has served approximately 3,200 youth with high-quality aquatic and nautical education in the classroom and on the water, utilizing the 73-foot traditional schooner Spirit of Buffalo as its primary “floating classroom”. In 2011, the program expanded to include a 6-week school-based program – called Great Lakes Watershed Exploration – implemented by a BUOE educator in the classroom prior to the student’s trip on the Spirit of Buffalo.
Executive Director and Founder Capt. Kate Mini Hilliman says, “This year, our goal is to not only increase and affect student understanding and awareness of their Great Lakes environment but also engage youth in and empower them to do something about it. Every young person – regardless of background - has the potential to change their world for the better; sometimes they just need the opportunity to see and experience it a little differently.”
Teachers and administrators express great enthusiasm for the program, knowing that the Great Lakes Watershed Exploration content supports classroom curriculum, strengthens environmental literacy, encourages critical thinking and exposes youth to new career paths. Pre-program testing has revealed that participating students have a very low level of knowledge, understanding and awareness about the Great Lakes. Of 250 students evaluated, only 32% of students knew that the Great Lakes are filled with fresh water and only 8% knew that they lived in the Great Lakes watershed.
In addition to its partnership with Closing the Gap, BUOE has expanded programming in 2012 thanks to new funding from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Josephine Goodyear Foundation Erie County Environmental Education Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency and new partners such as Earth Force, WNY United Against Drugs and Alcohol Abuse, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Northwest Buffalo Community Center.
Buffalo Urban Outdoor Education also offers Family Lake Exploration Programs in June and July for families and young children, Science Afloat nautical and environmental science field trips for school and summer groups and Kids at the Helm, a 4-day summer program teaching leadership and teambuilding through maritime skills and science.