N.J. youths learn other risks in Md. Adventure: Labeled 'at risk' because they come from areas of crime, the students were part of Baltimore's Living Classrooms Foundation.

September 01, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

The 30 youths from Newark, N.J., were labeled "at risk" by organizers because they come from areas of frequent crime, poverty and unemployment.

Did the adults get it all wrong? Some might have wondered for a moment or two. What's riskier for a city kid than standing on the leaning deck of a moving sailboat, sleeping on the ground in a Howard County tepee or examining a blue crab -- all for the first time?

Yet as Marven Madden, 12, scrambled eggs for his buddies in the warm galley of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Roger B. Taney in the Inner Harbor last week, he seemed to speak for his fellow students/guests of Baltimore's Living Classrooms Foundation this week:

"Oh, I'm having fun," he said, turning the eggs.

The youths had a few concerns about sailing or creepy-crawly things in the water, but said they had few of these exciting adventures in Jersey.

The youths were among 500 teen-agers and others, from the United States and other countries, who had spent part of their summer with the Baltimore educational nonprofit organization. About 200 Maryland students sailed on the skipjack Minnie V.

The 30 took the helm on sailboats, visited a farm, camped out, stopped at Fort Carroll, learned stream, river, wetland and estuary ecology and got along with new friends before graduation Friday and the bus ride back home.

The week before, a class came to the foundation from Paterson, N.J. Earlier, studying such things as how submarines sink and rise, were two groups of gifted and talented students. Other visitors did not carry that label but showed gifted enthusiasm for Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay curiosities.

Marven and his buddy, Tyrese Ashe, 13, an eighth-grader fixing pancakes, didn't know the history of the ship where they had slept the night before.

The Taney is the last surviving combat ship that was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked Dec. 7, 1941. The assault destroyed or damaged 19 American ships and 265 aircraft, killed 2,403 servicemen and civilians, and wounded 1,178. The Japanese lost 29 aircraft and 55 airmen. The only other surviving vessel is a San Francisco tugboat.

The decommissioned cutter at Pier 4 is part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum, operated by the foundation. Other elements are the submarine Torsk, the Chesapeake Light Ship and Seven Knoll Lighthouse.

The boys and girls from New Community Corp. in Newark did many things for the first time and had their personal favorites.

Marven liked plankton. Tyrese dissected oysters. Loretta Brown, 13, a ninth-grader, caught a crab and was looking forward to canoeing in Edgewater.

Elliott Williams, 12, had sailed to Sandy Point on the Mildred Belle buy boat. Raheen Tarry, 12, liked sleeping on the ship and meeting girls (boys and girls stayed in separate, supervised sleeping quarters). Jamar Cunningham, 14, a ninth-grader, liked the Inner Harbor. Corey Melton slept in a tepee.

Besides the hot and muggy weather all week, were there any dislikes?

"Conflict," said Sharmaine Brown, 13. She explained that a few girls had argued among themselves, but "we talked things over."

Jen McDermott, a foundation staffer who is program director of the skipjack Sigsbee, said, "The girls were learning to work through these matters."

The 30 students were divided into three groups: one all girls, one all boys and one mixed. They rotated among different venues: the Mildred Belle voyage to Sandy Point; the skipjack Sigsbee's study of oysters; a stream ecology trek at Mount Pleasant Nature TTC Farm in Howard County; and canoeing at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater.

They learned not only about port and starboard, but also a bit about hurricanes. The possible threat of Hurricane Bonnie required slight adjustments in schedules and, for one day, all boats were moored at Pier 5 for protection.

Many of the 30 youths had never been on boats, farms or camping trips, said Steven Bountress, director of shipboard education, although several had been on the Lady Maryland, a replica of an 1880s schooner, one time off New Jersey.

"It's a whirlwind of experiences," he said. "The kids don't know what they're getting into. It sinks in when they go home. Weeks later, we hear it can have an incredible impact on their lives."

Abbie Riopelle, 23, a foundation science educator on the Mildred Belle, was supervising the young cooks who prepared buns, cleaned up and removed their bedrolls for the next night's stay at Mount Pleasant.

She said the eager visitors had caught a good harvest of facts about the Chesapeake Bay watershed while hauling in nets that included bay anchovies and rockfish, all of which were returned to the bay after examination.

"I smell something burning," Riopelle said, and excused herself. The new shipmates from New Jersey were ready. The scrambled eggs and pancakes were done. The cooks Marven and Tyrese carried their handiwork down to the mess to feed the deckhands.

Pub Date: 9/01/98

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