Cadets practice firefighting training aboard the TS Kennedy.

By Gwen Rollings

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) has issued an ‘All Aboard’ for students from grades K-12 in the Tampa area to participate in its Follow The Voyage – Share The Adventure online program. Registered educators and their classes will virtually travel aboard the TS Kennedy as over 600 cadets complete their Sea Term from Monday, January 6 through Sunday, February 23, 2020.

In addition to experiencing food, art and culture as the ship stops in places like Panama, Costa Rica and Curacao, Tampa area students will learn how to hold a Shellback ceremony with cadets crossing the equator. All accompanying hands-on lessons and activities will be provided so students may participate in the cadets’ activities without leaving their classrooms.

There will be a unique opportunity for local students to personally tour the TS Kennedy as it docks in Tampa from Friday to Sunday, February 14-17, 2020.

“From small islands to big cities, participating students will feel like they are right beside the cadets. It’s the ultimate free STEM adventure on land and sea,” promised Nancy A. Franks, Follow The Voyage – Share The Experience coordinator for MMA.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy is a public college in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, offering undergraduate degrees in maritime-related fields as well as graduate degrees and professional studies. The Follow The Voyage program began in 1997 for grades 7 and 8. It focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

By 2018, the program expanded into Follow The Voyage – Share The Adventure and included 10,000 students from 23 different states. That number grew to 12,000 participants in 2019. The new program additionally focuses on the cadets’ winter experiences aboard the TS Kennedy, the training ship of the academy.

“Students, parents and family members are able to visit one website to virtually join cadets participating in experiential learning programs and cruising aboard the TS Kennedy through cadet blogs, a captain’s log, photographs, videos, interviews and special features,” according to Franks.

The Follow The Voyage – Share The Experience curriculum promises to be a welcome addition for educators as the curriculum is linked to the Common Core Mathematics Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards and incorporates language arts, social studies and fine arts. Not only are classroom teachers encouraged to participate, but also small groups of English language learners, gifted and talented students, remedial readers, art teachers, Spanish teachers, media specialists, libraries, homeschool families and before and after-school programs.

The Tampa area has notable ties to Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Cadet 3/C Juan Colon, a 2018 Riverview High School graduate, is currently a marine transportation major, and 4/C Nicholas Hernandez is from Tampa. Brian Willeke, a science and history teacher at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, is listed by MMA as participating in the Follow The Voyage – Share The Experience program.

Even the TS Kennedy has a proud historical connection to a Tampa company. In 1966, the SS Velma Lykes was completed and delivered to Lykes Brothes Steamship Company in Tampa. In 1979, the SS Velma Lykes made history when she became the first U.S. flag vessel to call on the mainland Chinese port of Whampoa since the Chinese Communist Revolution. In 2009, she was renamed TS Kennedy after a $10 million renovation.

Tampa teachers and administrators who register for the program will be invited to a reception aboard the TS Kennedy when she docks near Ybor City on Saturday, February 15, 2020.

Educators may register an individual class, a grade level, a school or the district for Follow The Voyage – Share the Adventure by contacting Nancy A. Franks at ftv@maritime.edu. Include your name, an email address, the school’s name and address and the approximate number of students that will be participating.

There is no charge for this great cruising adventure.