The Upwind Program at the Indiana Sailing Association combines Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math concepts (also known as STEM) with basic, introductory sailing experiences that help young people encounter academics in a new way.
During the program, participants are able to transition from traditional shore-based classroom learning experiences to on-water experiences where they apply the STEM concepts while sailing boats with coaches. These hands-on, authentic experiences help to bridge the gap between book learning and real-life.
Current Program Tracks
What is STEM?
The term “STEM” is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It is typically used when addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools from kindergarten through college.
Nationwide, there are concerns about students lagging behind in performance in STEM subjects. Recent studies suggest that students in Indiana are in need of support.
Why is STEM important?
Over the past twenty years, according the U.S. Department of Education, the amount of time spent on “science” within Indiana elementary classrooms has been declining. In the early 1990s science accounted for 3 hours of time per week and most recently it is barely more than 2 hours per week.
In another 2011 study, only 24% of 8th graders in Indiana have teachers who spend 5 hours or more each week on Science. This is 10% behind the national average.*
Research shows that young people who are exposed to engineering before high school can develop early interest in the field and improve their performance in math and science.
Unfortunately, across the state of Indiana, few eighth graders are getting this kind of exposure. According to a 2011 study, only 16% of eighth graders in Indiana, on average, discussed with teachers at least once per week the kinds of problems engineers solve in real-life situations.*
Why STEM and Sailing?
The concepts within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be found in every aspect of the sailing experience.
Sailing provides a natural fit and a platform for talking about science, technology, engineering, and math in a variety of ways that also provides a “hands-on” opportunity for students to engage these concepts in an authentic, real environment aboard a working sailboat.
Consider one science subject such as “wind” for an example. Rather than only talking about wind speeds in a classroom, what it means, and how it is measured, students will have that opportunity to learn those fundamentals and then immediately experience those dynamics in a real sailboat on Lake Michigan. Students harness that wind power with their own hands to make the boat move under the supervision of a sailing coach.
Sailing provides an opportunity to increase student exposure to STEM concepts in engaging ways that will help support interest and potentially open opportunities for academic performance improvement.
Hasn’t the Indiana Sailing Association always taught STEM?
Yes and no. For more than 25 years the Indiana Sailing Association has been providing youth sail training experiences and it has been impossible to teach and learn about sailing without casually talking about science, engineering, and math concepts along the way. So the concepts of STEM have always been present, but they weren’t a core focus.
The Indiana Sailing Association will continue the strong history of boating safety and introductory sailing curriculum that has always incorporated teamwork, communication, and confidence building skills along with implementing specific STEM focused curriculum that that will strengthen core academic principles.
* Learn more about the statistics relating to STEM and the State of Indiana at the following link – http://vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/#in-Indiana-Overview