Tracing trade routes only one part of learning experience for Riley students

By Dwight Collins | Feb 19, 2014
Photo by: Dwight Collins Students from the Riley School Skype with students from Windham and the Canary Islands as part of an Educational Passages initiative at Camden Public Library Feb. 12.

Rockport — Students at Riley School in Glen Cove are learning the history of sea trade with the help of model boats equipped with global positioning systems.

As part of an initiative through Educational Passages and its founder Dick Baldwin of Belfast, Riley students co-sponsored with Maine Boat Homes and Harbors Magazine a five-foot sailboat that use the trade winds to retrace the routes of the historic slave, rum and molasses trades. One of 40 boats in the program, students named the boat “Glenna,” after the school founder Glenna Plaisted, who died nearly a year ago.

“Glenna” and a boat from the Windham and Raymond school district named the “S.S. Eagle” are designated to trace rum routes and were shipped to the Canary Islands to set sail in hopes each will reach the Caribbean to catch the Gulf Stream and return to the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Feb. 12, Riley students got the chance to Skype - talk via video - with students from the Canary Islands and Windham schools through technology supplied by Camden Public Library.

“I think this was pretty neat,” said Baldwin. “There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room. What I like about this program is every voyage is different and it clearly interests people of all ages and walks of life and the teachers get as excited as the students.”

Students from the three schools each asked and answered questions about their experiences so far.

Maine students from both schools put trinkets inside the sailboats prior to their departure and students from the receiving school were able to remove them and share with the classes involved. The students from the Canary Islands then added its own flare to the boat adding a Canary Island sticker.

“This has been a wonderful experience for all of us,” said Rebecca Clapp, director of Riley School. “This is an exciting project brought to us by Maine Boats Homes and Harbors Magazine and Educational Passages and the students and staff are having a great time being a part of it.”

Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands, or PLOCAN, is the equivalent to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is the hosting organization. The boasts will set a drift from a large catamaran of Gran Canaria Island.

From there, the boats will be tracked using GPS signals managed by NOAA so students can track the voyage.

Launches in the past have led to some pretty interesting situations for students to work out, according to Baldwin, because the boats have made landfall, been picked up and later re-launched. There are instructions inside each boat written in multiple languages on how to contact the home school as well as a compartment in the hope whoever finds it will add a trinket of their own and return the boat to sea.

“There have been some really fun moments,” Baldwin said. “One boat ended up in an Irish pub and another made its way to several villages in the rainforest of Panama.”

Riley students will continue to monitor the “Glenna” and record its journey, using the information and data for a number educational purposes.

Anyone interested in following the adventures of the “Glenna” or any of the other boats go to, where there are links mapping the progress of each boat.

Dick Baldwin, founder of Educational Passages, answers questions during a Skype session with students from the Canary Islands, Riley School in Glen Cove and Windham and Raymond school distrcits at Camden Public Library Feb. 12. (Photo by: Dwight Collins)
Riley School student Alex Vokey records the Skype session with students from Windham and Raymond schools and the Canary Islands Feb. 12 at Camden Public Library. (Photo by: Dwight Collins)
This 5-foot model sailboat named "Glenna" equipped with a GPS tracking system will set sail from the Canary Islands. The boat is part of a program sponsored by Educational Passages to study historic sea trade routes. (Courtesy of: Dick Baldwin)
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