Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School: 2018

The Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School Writing Stem to Stern Team in New London, CT, is the 2018 recipient of the Orion Award.

Named for one of the most familiar constellations – the Hunter Orion, son of the sea god Poseidon – Orion has often marked the course for many seagoing vessels. The Orion Award recognizes teachers who use the resources of Mystic Seaport Museum to illuminate history, and create a living record that reflects America’s present and future as well as its past. This annual award recognizes stellar teachers who are inspiring to their students and to their colleagues. And, perhaps most importantly, teachers who radiate the joy of learning, as well as of teaching.

We are currently in the second year of a three-year program called Writing Stem to Stern, a program inspired by renowned author Nathaniel Philbrick that helps teach students at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School to become better writers and communicators about our nation’s maritime history. Each year students participate in immersive experiences and interact with Mystic Seaport’s artifacts and primary source materials that serve as visceral prompts for writing and broadens their knowledge of the maritime history of their city.

Activities the students have experienced include participating in a 19th century rescue technique used for shipwrecks, chantey programs, guided tours, team building activities, rope-making, virtual programs, primary source workshops, making scrimshaw, climbing the rigging of the Joseph Conrad, Planetarium program, whaleboat rowing, and more. The program will culminate with a writing project that will be presented by the students to the Mystic Seaport Board of Trustees, Nathaniel Philbrick, the New London Board of Education, and for posting on the Mystic Seaport Museum for Educators website.

The Writing Stem to Stern program is integrated into Bennie Dover Jackson’s Leadership Education and Development Program (L.E.A.D.). The objective of L.E.A.D. is to “foster students’ independence, teach responsibility, organization and critical thinking skills. Students will experience challenge, choice, and collaboration as a foundation for their growth and development as a Leadership Student.” Dr. Burdick and her team here today radiate passion for teaching and empowering students to become all that they can. We have seen firsthand how they tirelessly strive to provide the most engaging experiences for their students. They care so deeply about each and every student and are clearly making a difference in their lives. That is precisely why it is such an honor to bestow this year’s Orion Award to this wonderful team of teachers and administrators: