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Irvington Fifth-Graders' Sloop Trip Helps Them Bond With Hudson, Nature

Irvington students help crew members haul on the lines as they sail the Hudson River aboard the sloop Clearwater. Photo Credit: Irvington Union Free School District
Irvington students, and a crew member, gather on the deck of the sloop Clearwater to learn about the Hudson River firsthand. Photo Credit: Irvington Union Free School District

IRVINGTON, N.Y. -- A group of very lucky Irvington children got the chance recently to set sail for new educational horizons – on the floating classroom known as the sloop Clearwater.

The school where the fifth-graders are studying is perched near the top of the village’s Main Street, with a view of the magnificent Hudson River.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Irvington Education Foundation, they were able to experience it firsthand.

“This is a uniquely powerful platform for students to learn about the Hudson River’s natural wonders and cultural significance,” said Main Street School Principal Joyce Chapnick.

The trip was a culmination of the children’s river study, which, she said, “can forge a connection with nature to last a lifetime.”

During their voyage on the sloop, the students raised the sails, navigated the boat, visited learning stations to examine river life, performed water quality tests, and studied plankton and other invertebrate life.

The wood vessel was built in Maine and launched in 1969.

It is literally the flagship of Beacon-based Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc., which was founded by folk singer and environmental advocate Pete Seeger and his wife, Toshi.

The non-profit organization aims to protect the Hudson and surrounding wetlands and waterways through advocacy and public education.

According to its website, Clearwater offers several themed sails to schools:

  • Classic: The sloop's educator designs a theme based on the “strength and passion of the crew teaching on board” that day. It also covers geographic or historical points of interest” or relevant environmental issues.
  • History/Anthropology/Geology: Participants learn about the glaciers that formed the valley and the native peoples that once lived there. They are also taught how watersheds work and how people are part of the ecosystem.
  • Watershed Ecology: Participants are taught how the Hudson is a path through which people, plants, animals, nutrients and pollutants are all linked.
  • Sailing and Transportation: This pod shows how the boat is able to harness the power of the winds and explores the changes in the transportation of goods on the Hudson.
  • Arts and Music: Participants learn how the Hudson has inspired writers, painters, poets and musicians.

The cost of the 3-hour sail is $1,500, and includes everything associated with the program except transportation costs to and from the boat.

Chapnick thanked the foundation for the funding that made the “experience a realilty for us.”

For more information and a group sail application, click here.

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