The maritime theme is a vital thread running throughout Paul Cuffee School’s programs. The purpose of this theme is not only to honor our namesake but also to inculcate in our students a respect and reverence for Rhode Island’s richest natural resource, as well as an understanding of how best to sustain our waterways and the life they support. Our programs take full advantage of the school’s proximity to the rivers and bay that run through and define Providence.
Students experience the theme in various ways, beginning with learning about the life of Paul Cuffee, a master mariner and educational pioneer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In the classroom, teachers often build nautical references into their science, social studies, literacy, and other lessons, taking advantage of Paul Cuffee’s rich legacy and our proximity to one of Rhode Island’s finest resources, Narragansett Bay.
Each year fifth grade students devote the better part of three months to a boat design program that teaches the scientific concepts behind buoyancy, stability, and speed, as well as public speaking and presentation skills. The finished product is judged by nautical experts. Solid relationships with Save the Bay and the University of Rhode Island have led to visits, lectures, and shipboard experiences with an emphasis on the ecology of Narragansett Bay and the ocean.
The maritime theme informs our social and civic education as well as our academic programs. Younger students are taught to swim at the East Side YMCA. Older students are encouraged to participate in a variety of sailing opportunities, chiefly at the Community Boating Center, but also at the Greenwich Bay Sailing Association, Rocky Hill School’s SEA program, and at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol. These opportunities help build confidence and life skills while bolstering students’ academic learning.