Michael Graham: 2012

Teacher at the Charles Morgan School in Clinton, CT

Michael Graham, a history and civics teacher at the Charles Morgan School in Clinton, Connecticut, has been awarded the 2012 Mystic Seaport Orion Award for Excellence in Experiential Education. He was honored at the Museum’s annual donor recognition dinner on September 28.

The Orion Award is bestowed by Mystic Seaport on stellar teachers who create meaningful and innovative learning experiences for their students by utilizing the Museum’s collections, programs, and learning resources. The Award recognizes teachers who infuse history, math, science and literature with a maritime focus and are an inspiration to their students and their colleagues.

Graham has been a key collaborator in the development of the Mystic Seaport “Adventures in Research” experiential education program, where students are introduced to primary source material from the Museum’s collections and asked to explore important themes around whaling and the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. Students are tasked to come up with essential questions about each of the themes and develop a draft research strategy for researching and uncovering clues about those themes and how they each tell important parts of the story of the Morgan. The goal is to stimulate critical thinking skills and to encourage participants to become “historian detectives.” The program will be a component of the state’s 2013-2014 “Year of the Charles W. Morgan,” in which Connecticut schools will be provided learning resources to utilize the ship as an educational tool across multiple disciplines.

In addition to his role in the “Adventures in Research” program, Graham also presented at this year’s Mystic Seaport Summer Teacher Institute. The Institute brought teachers from across the country to learn methods for students to research and use inquiry methods using primary source material.

“‘We chose to honor Michael Graham with this award because he understands that primary sources and hands-on research create an opportunity for students to develop and apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are integral components of the new Common Core standards being implemented in schools today,” said Sarah Cahill, Director of Education at Mystic Seaport.

A lifelong learner, Graham continually adds to his repertoire through experiential learning. He has been a participant in Yale University’s PIER Institute Summer Programs, a participant in Gilder Lehrman Institute and actively uses the Brown University Choices Program.

During his teaching career in three school districts, and as a trainer and supervisor in private business, he continuously applied the principles learned in education to the training he provided in business operations. Graham has been a successful coach in athletics, a tutor, serves on several high school committees and is involved with the Connecticut Geographic Alliance.

Graham said, “The use of primary sources and the experience of hands-on research are more than just a fun experience–they create a real experience that allow the students to develop the Common Core standards our schools want students to learn and use. The Mystic Seaport Research Program is an example of collaboration between public and private that provide students new methods of learning with impact for the rest of their lives.”

The Charles Morgan School is named after Charles Morgan, an influential 19th-century shipping and railroad businessman from Clinton. He is no relation to the New Bedford whaling merchant Charles W. Morgan, namesake of the Museum’s whaleship.