Educational Studies student combines environmental and ocean literacy outside the classroom

Juliet Fluty and Cassie Stymeist
Juliet Fluty, Educational Studies ’24 (left), found a partner in Cassie Stymeist, Marine Biology '06 (right), to help her craft a one-of-a-kind internship plan.

University of New England student Juliet Fluty, (Educational Studies ’24), always knew she wanted to teach but was unsure about following the traditional route of spending most of her time in a classroom.

Fluty, who is also majoring in Marine Science, is in the midst of her senior educational studies internship, where she plans to teach students – on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean - about environmental and ocean literacy.

“I love outreach, and I love teaching about the environment, but I want to do something different,” Fluty said. “Last May, I took UNE’s travel course that goes to Ireland, and I absolutely fell in love with that country. I knew that I was meant to be there in some way.”

Fluty is currently teaching fourth graders every week in Biddeford while also connecting them with a group of students in Ireland through the Sea Synergy Marine Awareness, Research and Activity Center in County Kerry, Ireland, where Fluty hopes to travel to in March as part of the internship. Fluty is raising money to make the trip happen.

County Kerry is where a small uncrewed boat from Maine washed ashore in 2019, which originated from southern Maine in 2012. That boat, named Mini Maine, is part of the nonprofit group Educational Passages that works with classrooms across the country to build, launch, and track the vessels that are called “miniboats.”

Mini Maine voyage

Voyage of the Mini Maine from 2012 to 2019. Courtesy: Educational Passages/Google

“The travel of Mini Maine is unique in that it took over three years to actually get to Ireland, after looping around the Atlantic a couple of times,” said Cassie Stymiest, executive director of Educational Passages and a 2006 UNE marine biology graduate.

Stymiest said the Mini Maine stopped reporting in 2016, but was recovered in 2019 by a beachcomber in Ireland after washed up during a storm.

“(The beachcomber) contacted us, and, after a little research, we verified that it was indeed the Mini Maine,” Stymiest said. “Since then, schools in Ireland have been learning all about the voyage.”

Fluty has partnered with Stymiest for her internship program with a mission to re-launch the Mini Maine. Since the beginning of 2024, they have been collaborating with teachers and students in both Maine and Ireland to connect the communities.

“One of my favorite aspects of what Cassie and I are working on is connecting the kids individually as pen pals to connect cultures,” Fluty said. “When I first traveled to Ireland, a big takeaway for me was realizing that education in Ireland is very different than ours. And now I get to work with my Maine students for us all to explore the connections between us.”

The partnership between Fluty and Stymiest came together almost serendipitously, as Stymiest had already been crafting a plan to restart Mini Maine, but had to put it on the shelf in 2023 for lack of funding.

“She had this project that mirrored my writeup of what I wanted to do for my internship,” Fluty said after meeting with Cassie for the first time. “And we both laughed once we realized we were hoping to achieve the same. We also quickly bonded over our shared passion and experiences for education and marine science.”

“Juliet’s proposal was very similar to the mission of Educational Passages, which is to connect people around the world to the ocean and each other,” Stymiest said. “So, we are now setting sail to achieve just that, and the universe connecting us is all part of that adventure.”

The Mini Maine will be outfitted with a new sail decorated by both classrooms as well as messages inside for whoever finds the boat next.

Click here to support Fluty’s internship.