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Samuel Heed

Senior Historian & Director of Education, Kalmar Nyckel Foundation

“It is a gratifying experience to make a difference in people’s lives, helping to shape a future that depends – individually and collectively – on an educated citizenry.”

As a student and life-long learner, a parent, a classroom teacher for over 20 years, a curriculum designer, a historian, and, now, as an education director for a tall ship foundation, education has been central to my life, my identity, my career. “Sailing the KALMAR NYCKEL story” into classrooms with our “Starting A Colony” lesson is a recent example of a creative contribution I’ve made to public education in Delaware through my work for the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation (KNF). The “Starting A Colony” lesson/activity teaches economic concepts and decision-making skills within the historical context of colonial Delaware. The program resulted from collaborations with a constellation of partners, all working at different levels or on different phases of the project. As conceived and implemented, the “Starting A Colony” lesson is delivered free of charge by our KNF volunteer educators — augmented by a growing number of volunteer bankers from local financial institutions.

Bringing history alive for students has been our greatest success at KNF. Our tall ship excites the imagination and provides an incredible platform from which to reach young hearts and minds. But it is the way we have used the KALMAR NYCKEL story to “sail into the classroom” by partnering with the Delaware Department of Education to build curriculum units that see our greatest impact on students. The potential impact of our existing units (4th grade history; 5th grade economics; 5th grade geography), presently being used by over 9,000 students in Delaware, and the opportunity to develop new units across the curriculum and for different grade levels, is exponential and exciting. The best supporting evidence of our work would be to see the students themselves as they use our lessons and curriculum materials. Making history relevant to students is a constant challenge, no matter the student’s age, the subject matter, or the venue. Getting students to “feel it” as well as “think it,” to see that history was lived by real people with real lives, people with real weaknesses, strengths, choices, mistakes, and successes is both the challenge and the first step toward understanding – and, better still, real empathy. It’s “liberating” to know things, to be able to think independently, to understand the importance of context and perspective, to develop a sense of appreciation.

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