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On the waterfront

District 20 pre-K students get up-close-and-personal harbor safety lessons
New York Teacher

Teacher Martha Sorra’s students were thrilled to learn about the police boat and

When students at the District 20 pre-K site at 58th Street in Brooklyn study transportation, they can look out of their classroom windows and watch the ferries, water taxis and barges make their way past the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor.

“You can read books to learn about water safety, but to touch a life jacket and

The pre-K center shares space in the Brooklyn Army Terminal with the NYPD Harbor Unit, which has a canine unit, boats and a heliport. So the 4-year-olds have a front-row seat when police scuba divers jump from helicopters into the water as an exercise or when police boats take off from the dock.

But the 114 students got even closer on March 8, when their teachers took them onto the dock behind their building to see an NYPD boat and learn about water safety and the harbor from Detective Liam Devine of the NYPD Harbor Unit and two of his colleagues.


Detective Devine was among the first responders when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a passenger plane into the Hudson River off Manhattan in 2009 after birds knocked out both engines, said Drita Koci, the pre-K site coordinator.

“The kids were so excited, they’re still talking about it days later,” said teacher Martha Sorra. Students also walked through the police unit, watched a video and learned about how officers save people from drowning, Sorra said. When they returned to class, students drew pictures and told stories about what they just learned.

“They had played at a water table with toy boats before, but to look closely at the real thing and learn about wet suits, masks — that was an eye-opener to them,” Sorra said.


Teacher Addie Severino said her students loved seeing the boat and trying on the life jackets. “And then we saw some geese fly by, so that was also part of our transportation unit,” she said.

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