The Center for Historic Shipwreck Preservation

Students can now explore ancient shipwrecks, study marine science, dive into America’s maritime history and relive the Golden Age of Piracy – all without leaving their homes.

The Center for Historic Shipwreck Preservation (Shipwreck Center for short) launched a new online learning program in April, using the expertise and archaeological treasures of the Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth. The project, which is up and running but still being expanded and refined, was prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brandon Clifford, executive director of the nonprofit Shipwreck Center, said education has always been a big part of the organization’s mission, but the virtual learning program was created after public schools shut down in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. He said he helped set up remote classrooms for the Laurel School in Brewster, where his daughter is a student.

“After watching my daughter and her classmates become separated, I just felt inclined to do something positive and help out in any way that I could,” he said. And that work led to the bigger project.

“We realized that we could potentially reach, hundreds or thousands of students online across the country and connect them this with this really unique history of pirates,” Clifford said in a telephone interview.

In addition to pirate history, the virtual learning program will cover a wide range of ocean-related topics, he explained. Lessons will reach students in kindergarten through 12th grade, with two categories – history and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The center also provides lesson plans and educator guides – all approved for Massachusetts schools, Clifford said.

Treasures from Whydah Bring Lessons to Life

Brandon Clifford is the son of undersea archaeological explorer Barry Clifford, who discovered the Whydah Gally shipwreck in 1984 and founded the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth. The Shipwreck Center is independent from the pirate museum, with its own projects, research, resources and multimedia content, but Brandon Clifford’s ties to the museum and his father’s exploits help the center enhance its online classes with centuries-old artifacts recovered from the Whydah.  

“As time goes on, we’ll be able to do virtual field trips to a dive site,” he explained. Clifford envisions future explorations with “a camera out on a boat and a class being able to log on and join us for 45 minutes out on the ocean – watching how we set up our surveys and watching divers come out of the water with real pirate artifacts .”

The Whydah, a 100-foot slave ship that had been commandeered by pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, was bound for Maine with a load of treasure when it sunk in a storm in 1717, killing Bellamy and all but two of his 146-member crew. Explorer Barry Clifford discovered the wreck near Wellfleet’s Marconi Beach in 1984, and more than 35 years later, the Whydah remains the only authenticated pirate shipwreck ever to be recovered.

The Whydah site remains a work in progress with new diving expeditions every year. Researchers are still discovering artifacts that reveal not only clues to the life of pirates, but also to the slave trade and everyday life in the 18th century, Brandon Clifford said. Three years ago, divers found some 600 manillas – copper bracelets used as currency in the slave trade. Crews also discovered a small cannon that was most likely used as a chase gun on the Whydah, and explorers hope the latest discoveries will lead them to the ship’s stern.

The wreck site is scattered on the sandy bottom roughly 1,000 feet out in the ocean, Clifford said, owing to 300 years of storms and waves eroding Cape Cod’s shoreline at a rate of roughly 3 feet per year. Explorers theorize that the Whydah broke apart in the waves and the stern drifted away.

In addition to the Whydah Gally, classes will explore other shipwrecks, Clifford said. Teams led by his father plied the water off Madagascar’s coast near the island of Sainte Marie (aka “Pirate Island”) and found a half-dozen wrecks, including one that was tentatively identified as Captain Kidd’s Adventure Gally. They also searched for the Santa Maria, Columbus’s flagship, and worked on the northern and southern coasts of Haiti, looking for Captain Henry Morgan’s ship, the Oxford.

“We are going to use all our projects as examples,” Clifford said. “We’ll look at artifacts from various shipwrecks, and as things progress, we’re going to include more classes and more guests and create more virtual field trips.”

Membership, Donations and Lessons

The Shipwreck Center is using CrowdCast for its webcast platform and raising money with – a web-based program used by artists, educators, writers and other creators to engage members and raise money for projects. CrowdCast integrates well with Patreon, Clifford said, allowing group questions and answers, which is well suited for a classroom environment.

The Shipwreck Center’s website contains links to the virtual education program, along with pricing and program descriptions in three membership tiers – student, family and home-schooling, and schools and classes.

Clifford says the virtual learning program currently has two Massachusetts schools enrolled, along with some student and family memberships. An April 30 webcast on the value of preserving history with expedition archaeologist and conservator Sophia Morong, was attended by roughly 60 students, he said.

Clifford is now hoping to expand the service beyond Cape Cod and Massachusetts to share the fascinating stories of Atlantic pirates.

“You know, essentially we’re storytellers,” he explained. “We’re looking for shipwrecks but we’re following stories. And we really look forward to sharing the experience with as many as possible.”

Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce blogger Andy Tomolonis is a multimedia producer, award-winning journalist and author.

Take online classes during COVID-19 crisis

How do you make the most of your time while sheltered at home due to social distancing? The options may surprise you.

Online workshops, webinars, podcasts and videos can help out-of-work employees gain new skills for career advancement. Arts and cooking classes offer personal enrichment – along with immediate benefits in the kitchen. And free online seminars can help business owners prepare for the eventual time when commerce gets back to some degree of normalcy.

Classes that you can pursue from home with a computer and internet access are available from sources right here in Yarmouth – or as far away as your online connection will take you.

SCORE Webinars

Marc L. Goldberg, a certified mentor and assistant district director with SCORE Cape Cod, advises clients to make the most of their extended time while social distancing at home. There’s no denying that business closures, job losses and social isolation related to the coronavirus outbreak have created unprecedented hardships, but our extended time at home can provide an opportunity to expand your mind and explore new ideas, he says. Goldberg recommends taking full advantage of workshops, webinars, podcasts and TED Talks videos, while also communicating with career-minded peers on LinkedIn.

If you’re a business owner looking to navigate through the uncertainty created by COVID-19, a good place to find help is SCORE Cape Cod, which has been expanding its online offerings with content related to the coronavirus outbreak. The business workshops are almost always free, and they’re growing in popularity. A recent webinar on COVID-19 Guidance for the Small Business, which focused on the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program, drew more than 400 online participants, Goldberg said. Those who missed the presentation can watch it on video at the SCORE Cape Cod website.

Upcoming webinars related to the COVID-19 crisis include Marketing Advice to Combat an Economic Downturn (April 28); Navigating Long-Term Uncertainty and the Aftermath of Disruption (May 7); Four Key Things Business Owners Should be Focused on Right Now (May 12); and Essential PR Tools and Tactics – Elevate the Visibility of Your Business While Being Sheltered in Place (May 14).

To join a webinar, visit the workshop page at SCORE Cape Cod’s website, find a topic that you’re interested in and click on a link that will take you to a registration page. Fill out the information, and you’ll receive an email reminder the night before the workshop.

SCORE Cape Cod is one of 300 SCORE chapters with some 10,000 volunteers nationwide, ready to assist small businesses as a resource partner of the Small Business Administration. Formerly the Senior Corps of Retired Executives, SCORE now goes by its acronym alone, as many of the organization’s volunteers are still actively employed, Goldberg said.

SCORE’s Cape Cod and the Islands chapter has more than 50 volunteers, each with far-reaching areas of expertise to help small businesses and nonprofits. Due to COVID-19, face-to-face workshops have moved online, and mentoring is now conducted via phone, email and video conferencing. The SCORE website also provides business resources, helpful links and templates. Find more at SCORE Cape Cod.

Cape Cod Community College Courses

Local colleges and universities are the obvious places to turn for education, whether for a degree, a certificate program or low-cost, non-credit courses.

Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) in West Barnstable is offering an array of online learning options, including free and low-cost classes to train employees for the new reality of working from home.

The school’s Center for Corporate and Professional Education (CCAPE) began a “Working Virtual Series” this month, said Tammi Jacobsen, CCAPE’s director of Workforce Development and Training. Classes are fully remote and cover such timely subjects as remote meetings, virtual communication, G Suite tools, and even COVID-19 prevention. Classes are priced at $49 per course or $79 for two sessions.

CCAPE is also launching a new Smart Manufacturing Training Program in collaboration with MassHire’s South Shore Workforce Board. The training is free; it covers introductory and advanced material for manufacturing employment; and the classes include an internship with a local employer, Jacobsen said. Space is limited in all the new programs, with enrollment on a first-come first-served basis.

There are also plenty of options at 4Cs for affordable learning via partnerships with MindEdge, Ed2Go and Career Step.

Explore the offerings and learn more about the online classes at MindEdge, Ed2Go and CareerStep. For information about Cape Cod Community College’s instructor-led (synchronous) courses, visit CCCC’s Center for Corporate and Professional Education. The site includes a link to courses, with descriptions, starting dates and course pricing.

Online Classes at BSU Cape Cod

In addition to its degree programs, Bridgewater State University (BSU) Cape Cod in South Yarmouth also features numerous online courses through MindEdge and Ed2go.

Class options run the gamut, from arts and photography to writing workshops and veterinary skills. Some examples: Grant writing, digital photography, web design, fitness, alternative medicines, business writing, cybersecurity, digital marketing strategy, Google Analytics and Microsoft Excel.

The courses are practical, affordable, and they cover a great deal of information said BSU Cape Cod Director Jennifer Reid. Classes can be taken self-paced or with an instructor, and they often include material that can be downloaded for future reference, she said. Find more at the BSU website.

Cooking, Culture, Movement and More

From Tai Chi and yoga to painting and culinary arts, the Cultural Center of Cape Cod is shifting its myriad offerings to online sessions via Zoom. Director of Education Amy Neill says the online classes began with yoga and are steadily growing in volume and variety as instructors master the new technology.

The Cultural Center’s popular culinary arts classes led by Chef Joseph Cizynski now start with a Zoom meeting while the food is prepared sans audience, followed by curbside pick-up, which allows participants to partake of the meal they just watched Chef Joe create, Neill said.

The online cooking takes roughly 45 minutes, and Chef Joe peppers his online preparation with culinary tips and his own brand of storytelling. Then the gourmet food is packaged into separate to-go containers, complete with reheating instructions. After the online class, students stop by the Cultural Center at 307 Old Main Street in South Yarmouth to pick up their meals at 5:30 p.m., Neill said, adding that the feedback has been terrific.

Upcoming classes at the Cultural Center include Tai Chi with Holly Heaslip on Thursday mornings; Yoga with Lees Yunits on Fridays; Organizing and Protecting Your Photos with Ed Grossman; and a Cinco de Mayo cooking class with Chef Joe, featuring tequila laced laughing bird shrimp seviche, and pollo en mole poblano (with curbside pickup, of course).

Neill said the Cultural Center had experimented with online classes in 2018 and was looking to move more of its classes to the web before the coronavirus outbreak, and the trend will continue even after social distancing is relaxed. She cited the possibility of yoga classes with students and an instructor back at the Cultural Center, along with an online option for those who want to participate from home.

Find a complete schedule of upcoming classes with pricing and instructions for Zoom conferencing at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod’s education web page.

Continuing Education at D-Y Regional Schools

There are also low-cost education options at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional Schools, although selection is currently limited as adult education classes were suspended when schools closed in March due to COVID-19.

Some classes like yoga are offered online, said Suzanne Kenney, part-time adult education program coordinator for Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District.

One of the attractions enjoyed by participants in D-Y’s adult education programs is the camaraderie that develops from meeting in small groups with instructors, Kenney explained. She said when regular classes resume, she hopes those who registered for spring courses will be able to complete their studies.

She said some instructors are leading online classes, and she advised anyone who is interested to look at the current list of adult education courses online, and contact her at 508-394-2523 for more information.

Want more ideas?  The Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce publishes an up-to-date Calendar of Events on its website, including online classes and workshops. The YCC website also offers links to town-wide COVID-19 news, job postings and restaurants that are open for takeout food during the pandemic. Find more at

Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce blogger Andy Tomolonis is a multimedia producer, award-winning journalist and author.