It's not your typical classroom, but the Bayfront Maritime Center continues to provide a hands on learning environment year round.

It was all started back in 1998 by Rich Eisenberg and a partner.  His wife Amy hopped on board in 2006.

"We saw there was a disconnection between the kids of Erie and the water.  They had no chance whatsoever to get out on a boat and experience our most beautiful natural resource," she said.

They now serve more than a thousand students per year.  From after school programs to the adaptive sailing experience. 

One of their biggest programs is called the Bayfront Alternative Education Program.  They partner with the Sarah Reed Children's Center to provide alternative education to students who have been removed from the Erie School District.

"We're kind of like the last safety net.  It's pretty much the school's have thrown up their hands and said we can't do anything with this kid.  Who's to say a kid at 15 or 16 is done?  No.  People just learn in different ways," said Amy, the executive assistant. 

They're all about the hands on education.  A perfect example is the Erie boat.  Hundreds of their students helped build a sail boat over a three year period. 

"It was built entirely by Erie school students.  Over a thousand kids worked on this boat and that's 4th grade kids all the way up through high school kids.  Now it's a floating classroom.  It's a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) floating classroom.  The kids will go out sailing.  They'll be doing speed, time, distance in their heads and we won't use the "A" word, algebra, until they get good at it," said executive director Rich Eisenberg. 

And that's their passion.  Helping kids learn in ways they wouldn't normally be able to in a standard classroom.  And in a way that connects them to Erie's best asset; the water.

"I want these kids to be successful in their education and to know how to solve problems and know how to think on their feet and know how to keep themselves safe.  We're also planting maritime seeds here and we've seen a lot of them grow," said Rich Eisenberg.

"They can look in a book and see a picture of a boat or they can build a boat in the shop with their hands, but until they get that experience of what it feels like to be in a boat and what floating is about, there's nothing that can replace that," said Amy Eisenberg.