Sloop programme ‘even more relevant now’

  • Branwen Smith-King (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A sail training programme designed to help build character in schoolchildren is even more relevant today than when it first launched more than a decade ago, the outgoing executive director of the programme said.

Branwen Smith-King, who has just left her post at the Bermuda Sloop Foundation to become secretary-general of the Bermuda Olympic Association, added that the Spirit of Bermuda offered a different learning environment for teenagers and was important in the motivation of young people who benefited from education outside traditional classrooms.

She said: “I’ve always had an affinity for the programme. I think the founders, Alan Burland, Malcolm Kirkland and Jay Kempe, they had a vision.

“It was relevant in 2006 and it’s even more relevant now, in my opinion.”

Ms Smith-King added: “We hear a lot of talk about education and different learning styles and motivations kids have to learn. I think Bermuda is getting there.

“We need to provide different opportunities and different environments for children to learn.”

She added: “To have experiential learning, learning by doing, some children learn much better that way. I know I do.

“Not everybody is motivated being behind a desk all day; we all know this. It’s not rocket science.

“I think with the economy and family structure and the social ills that we have in any society, we still need to provide a high level of education in any way we can, and in every way we can, whether it’s in the traditional classroom or Spirit of Bermuda or through activities, sports, music and dance; it’s all helping to develop the full individual.

“Not everybody is going to be academia; of course we want to inspire our children to do well and have a career, but not everybody’s cut out to be a lawyer, a teacher or a doctor.”

Ms Smith-King said: “I think what the Spirit of Bermuda provides is another opportunity for kids to learn in a new environment.” The former track and field athlete took up the “diverse” role with the BSF in 2017.

She said last week her tenure was “three years of joy” and that she had admired “the commitment and passion” that the founders and board members had for the programmes.

The Spirit of Bermuda is run by the BSF and its primary focus is to deliver five-day coastal expeditions for third-year middle school pupils.

Youngsters learn by experience, build social and emotional skills and get a good grounding in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths.

Ms Smith-King said: “When you get out on the ship and you see these young people working with the crew and learning how to sail, it’s really character development through sailing.”

She added: “People use the word ‘cruise’ sometimes. They’re not out cruising, they’re on the ship and they’re working. They’re running the ship.

“The crew are teaching them and they’re challenging themselves; some of them may be a little timid of the water and may feel a little seasick, but most of them are just doing great.”

Ms Smith-King said: “They can make a career out of this, they can sail overseas and be on other tall ships. It opens a door or a pathway to careers or opportunities for them to figure out who they are, what they want to do with their lives.”

She started her new post on Monday, but said she wanted to continue working with the BSF in a volunteer capacity.

David Goodwin, chairman of the BSF board, said: “We’re delighted that she joined us and held the fort for three years.

“She added a lot of benefits to us in understanding youth and what this community needed to develop youth to a higher level.

“She very adequately addressed all the social and emotional aspects that were needing buffeting.

“She spent a lot of time reviewing the experience that they had on board as well as the curriculum.”

Mr Goodwin added that several applicants had replied to an advertisement for the post.