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A scene that we haven't seen on Manhasset Bay for a while! These frostbiters are hoping that the weather cooperates for their annual New Year's Regatta in a few weeks.

A terrific story has surfaced recently that is quite appropriate to this time of year of holiday cheer and good will to all. It involved children and sailing and two people who have made a difference for those less fortunate. The two people in question are Heather Halstead and Marc Gustafson, founders of Reach the World (RTW). While volunteering in under-resourced public schools, they became concerned with teachers' ability to meet the demands of the 21st century and students isolation from the world community. When they founded Reach the World in 1998, their goal was to help elementary and secondary school students and teachers develop knowledge, attitudes, values and thinking skills to make it in a complex, culturally diverse and rapidly changing world. The two also thought that to prepare young people to become competent adults, they needed to be exposed to more than reading and writing in school. Noting that many low-performing public schools did not have the resources to offer high technology curriculum to their students, Halstead and Gustafson worked their magic to make it happen.

Today, Reach the World enriches the school day by connecting classrooms to travelers on actual journeys across the globe. They identify volunteer travelers, manage web-based educational content posted by the travelers, develop customized curriculum, and provide teacher training via graduate student interns. In 2006, the non-for-profit was awarded a Model Program in Geography Education, one of only six in the nation. To date, Reach the World has affected more than 8,000 students and 300 teachers in three locations: New York, Chicago and Odessa, TX. Not only do they deliver the goods; they measure outcomes of their efforts. Ninety-seven percent of Reach the World students correspond with someone from another country as compared to 11 percent nationwide and all Reach the World teachers deliver instruction in foreign countries and cultures, compared to 23 percent nationwide.

Many of you readers may be wondering what this all has to so with sailing. Actually, quite a bit. During the 1997-1999 voyage of Makulu, a 43-foot sailboat and more recently their voyage in June 2007, involved the participation of the volunteer travelers, teachers, and students who all benefited from the curriculum supplement and made learning come alive. Take, for example, the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center experience with Reach the World. Thirty kids from the Center in Harlem went on a voyage to the 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson River last summer. The participants, ages 6-12, received hands-on experience in nautical life from the crew of Makulu, which was getting ready for a two-and-a-half-year sailing journey around the world. The kids received a lesson in nautical knot tying and had time to spend with the crew asking questions. Then it was on to the upper deck to learn about navigation as they sat around the ships compass and Captain's wheel. The participants then descended by ladder to the crew's living quarters - lounge, kitchen, head and bunks.

Classrooms throughout New York City, aided by volunteer graduate students from Columbia University's Teacher's College, will join the Makulu crew virtually on their adventure for the next few years via the Reach the World website, www.reachtheworld.com.

Since the launch of the 2001 Voyage of Makulu, Reach the World has served 60 teachers and technology coordinators and over 1,800 students in 19 New York City school sites, from the first through 12th grade. The Reach the World website is a free resource for all users and received approximately 5,000 hits per day.

The Reach the World's vision is that one day, every classroom in every community will have the training and resources necessary to incorporate the real-world, real-time materials into the learning process, sparking children's natural curiosities and connecting them to a global community.

Have you traveled? Has anyone shared their travel stories with you? Has this affected your world view? If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, then you understand the mission of Reach the World. RTW is capitalizing upon an existing energy in our society - travelers - and turning it into an educational resource for all children and teachers. Through Reach the World, the age-old tradition of traveling and sharing stories makes the leap into the digital age - and for once, disadvantaged students are along for the ride.

As you plan your vacations in the coming year, you may want to think about sharing your story with children in our area. Log on to www.reachtheworld.com and find out how easy it is to open the world to a child who doesn't see much more than his immediate neighborhood. And in doing so, you will be giving yourself a treat, for what could be better than helping a child expand their horizons by "sharing your story."

Now that we seem to be in a winter deep freeze, and it is not even winter yet, AccuWeather.com has issued an updated 2007-2008 Winter Season Forecast from Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi that is welcome news for our frostbiters. He forecasts the upcoming winter season to be one of the warmest winters on record, especially east of the Rockies. The recent cold that the East and Great Lakes area has is consistent with the original forecast released in October, which called for seasonable winter weather at the beginning and end of the winter with warmer temperatures dominating what is usually the coldest part of the season. The only colder than normal areas are in the less populated Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies. While this is great news for frostbiters, who have been unable to sail the last few weeks because of the weather, and are still hoping to have their annual New Year's Regatta in a few weeks, this news is not very good for those of us who worry about global warming.

Happy holidays to all. May 2008 bring you all good things - the love of your family and friends and a safe, happy and healthy new year.


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