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Navigators Set Sail from Clinton


Hamden Middle School Navigators set sail in their handcrafted boat with an assist from math teacher Rob Mandel. Photo by Katie Ryan

Hamden Middle School Navigators set sail in their handcrafted boat with an assist from math teacher Rob Mandel. (Photo by Katie Ryan)

On June 8, the Clinton Sailing Club (CSC) helped cap off a semester-long project with fun and, hopefully, lifelong lessons for a group of Hamden students.

On that Friday morning, a group of 20 8th-grade students from Hamden Middle School successfully navigated handmade boats to Cedar Island and back to the marina under supervision from some of the CSC staff.

Andrew Marzano, a Clinton resident and teacher in Hamden, said that the students began working on the boats in January, and made every piece of the wooden boats by hand. Once the boats were finished being built in late April, the students then painted the boats before putting them in the water.

Building the boats incorporates math and science skills, as well as English and history lessons, Marzano said.

The day was made possible because of a partnership between the CSC and Hamden Public Schools’ The Navigator Program. Marzano said that the idea of the program came about as a way to teach students who were struggling in a traditional classroom setting.

“In Hamden, we had a need where kids aged 13- to 15 years old were getting disinterested,” Marzano said.

Marzano said that some of the students in the program were struggling academically, socially, or with attendance issues. The Navigator Program offered the students a chance to learn the same skills as they would in a classroom, but in a way that is more engaging to them.

The program looks at three categories when selecting students: academics, behavior, and attendance.

“After the end of their 7th grade year, we look at the report cards for below average grades—students who are struggling and have quit or are just disengaged in two or more subject areas. We look at those students who have collected numerous referrals, suspensions, or have been expelled. More importantly, we look at the reasons for why they have received so many. We look for students who have missed an excessive amount of school. Usually more than 10 percent unexcused absences,” Marzano said.

“After compiling a list, we trim it down to about 30 students that meet one or all three of these categories. We then go to the teachers, administration, and guidance department to get a feel if this type of environment would be beneficial for those students,” Marzano said.

CSC President Alan Felgate said that Marzano approached him three years ago as the CSC was getting off the ground about participating in the program. Marzano noted that the Clinton Rotary club was instrumental in helping get the program started. In addition to the CSC helping Marzano and his group with their project, the students built a boat that was auctioned off at the first annual CSC Shindig, a fundraiser for the club.

“It feels very rewarding to five back to or greater community,” Felgate said. “It’s an easy way to have a big impact. The kid’s faces light up.”

Felgate said that some of the students, aged 13 to 15, had never been out on the water before. Felgate said a memorable moment for him was when a student excitedly proclaimed, “This is just like Moana,” a reference to the popular Disney movie about a young girl who travels the ocean on a wooden boat.

Marzano said that the students in The Navigator Program still must take the same standardized tests as their classmates, and the test results show the program has been a success, produced an eight percent improvement in scores on scores. Marzano said that the program, in addition to the classroom skills, helps the students with character building and confidence building as well.

“We actually get the kids to try. The big thing is kids get confidence,” Marzano said.

For more information on the CSC and The Navigator program, visit and

Eric O’Connell covers news for Clinton for Zip06. Email Eric at

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