STEM Program Information (Schools and Rec Departments)

To learn more about how to get your organization involved with MCSC’s STEMward program, please contact Program Director Avi Mayerhoff at avi@sailingcenter.org.

"STEMward: Sailing into Schools" is a play on the boating term "stem of a boat” that acts as an identifier and a gateway to authentic STEM projects using boat design/engineering, sailing as a technology, science of sailing design, and the language of math to describe it.  STEM in terms of the MCSC program is the stem of the sailboat that acts as the fundamental line from which the rest of the construction of the boat (or program) emerges.  

Program Foundation

  • Five Curricular Components
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Engineering Practices
  • Career Models
  • Authentic Engineering Design and Development within the Scope of the Classroom, and Outdoor Environment

Program Components

  • Component I:  Teacher Professional Development at MCSC
      Overview of Program, Timeline and STEM Based Curricular Components and Activities
  • Component II:  MCSC Presents STEMward Science and Engineering Modules Directly at Schools
      Lesson 1.  Become a Marine Engineer & Sailboat Fabricator
      Lesson 2:  What Floats Your Boat? Hull Design & Buoyancy
      Lesson 3:  What Sails Your Boat? Aerodynamics of Sails
      Lesson 4:  How Do You Get From Here to There?  Geometry, and Points of Sail
  • Component III: MCSC Fieldtrip: From Classroom  to Fieldwork
      Lesson 5: Sailing on Lake Michigan: Putting STEM Principles to Work
      Lesson 6: Boats, Boatyard, and Simple Machines
      Lesson 7: Careers in Marine Organizations
  • Component IV: Classroom Teacher Lead Lessons, Fabricate, Test, and Replicate Sailboat Models
      Lesson 8:  Model Sailboat Fabrication
      Lesson 9:  Fabricated Sailboat Replication Using Computer Design or Hand Drawing
      Lesson 10: Testing Fabricated Sailboats for Buoyancy, Sail Shape, & Downwind Sailing              
  • Component V:  The Great Sailboat Challenge held at MCSC
      Lesson 11:  Build a Water Testing Tank
      Lesson 12:  Let's Race
      Lesson 13:  Let's Present Our Science & Engineering Findings

Schools participating in this program receive the following:

  • Teacher professional development session prior to starting classes
  • Three to four MCSC classroom instructional visits
  • “Supply Kit” that includes lesson plans, a flash drive containing presentation power points and run-offs, Student Engineer lab books, demo boats, plastic water tanks, measuring tapes, Sailing Wheels, Racing board games, Rulers and Protractors, and a 10 foot gutter tank.
  • MCSC fieldtrip and bus transportation.
  • An on-board visit with water professionals and their working boats (harbor patrol, fire boat, tug, etc.) coordinated by MCSC to highlight careers in the marine industry.

History of STEMward at MCSC

Following the new MCSC education center’s opening in 2010, year round boating education programs could be offered.  The local formal middle and high school education community started making requests to MCSC for nautical based hands-on learning that could support their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) efforts directly at their schools and the MCSC education center. 

 In late 2013, MCSC independently launched a pilot program, "STEMward: Sailing into Schools" in partnership with the Brown Deer School District and its Project Lead the Way middle school. The initial development of STEM curriculum, learning materials, staff support and on-and-off the lake STEM activities was partially supported by a one-year $2,500 grant from the US Sailing Association Foundation covering initial 5% of budgeted costs.  In 2014 the MCSC STEM program was expanded to include MPS Trowbridge School 8th graders whose curriculum focuses on Great Lakes water issues.  To date the STEM Pilot has served 120 students with requests from 6 other schools and districts to join the program.  It now is time to sail beyond the pilot phase and build program capacity to accommodate multiple schools.


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