BROCKPORT, N.Y. — After more than a decade on the go, a message in a bottle that was part of a local school project has been found.
The message, sent by Christopher Albrecht's class in Brockport, managed to travel tens of thousands of miles before being discovered.
Albrecht has been in the same classroom of Hill Elementary School for 24 years.
“It’s amazing to me," he said. "What it does for me is bring back that connection to a lot of children I absolutely love.”
A member of the National Teacher’s Hall of Fame and 2018 New York State Teacher of the Year, the language arts teacher says he’s not a leader, but a facilitator.
“Essentially, my philosophy on teaching is curriculum should be shared by teachers and students," said Albrecht.
So when his students, inspired by a news article, wanted to send out messages in a bottle in 2010, he sought out a way to make it happen.
“One of the things that I think is really valuable for a teacher is to be an observer," said Albrecht. "And I observed they were really interested in it. The challenge is, we live in Rochester, New York. Here we are in little Brockport, how do you put bottles in an ocean?”
The students stuffed the bottles with an essay and a drawn self-portrait, along with Mr. Albrecht’s email address and a short explanation of the project. Those bottles were then taken to North Carolina and dropped off in the gulf stream of the Atlantic Ocean.
“This wasn’t about bottles, it wasn’t about a writing assignment," said Albrecht. "The whole idea is to make sure our students feel value in the education they’re doing and knowing their voice can be heard."
Of the 43 bottles, five were found within the first two years.
“There was a buzz. When the one was found up in Nova Scotia, there was an extreme buzz," Albrecht said.
And then nothing until nearly 12 years later, when Kathy Dahn decided to take a walk along the beach while on a trip to the Bahamas. She’s from Nova Scotia, Canada where the first bottle happened to be found.
“It was pretty amazing," Dahn said. "I didn’t want to get too excited because I thought, 'this bottle has definitely been in the water for a long time.' It had little tiny sea life growing on the end of the cork and everything," Dahn said.
The contents were well preserved.
Mr. Albrecht estimates it probably traveled more than 60,000 miles.
“It was one of the most exciting things, I think," Dahn said. "Besides having your kids and grandkids and everything on the list of life moments, it was very, very exciting. And that I could get ahold of Chris and Jared both.
Jared Hardies is the owner of the bottle. He just finished his junior year at Penn State. The 21-year-old is studying meteorology and appreciates the science behind the entire thing.
“It’s really, really cool," said Hardies. "I’ve been thinking about the path the bottle may have taken to get where it did, just that in and of itself. You could spend all day thinking about it.”
He says when he got the call from Mr. Albrecht, it took him a minute to even remember the project in the first place.
“He says, 'do you remember what you all did in fourth grade?' And I said, 'I don’t even know what you’re talking about,'" said Hardies. "Is it going to be something sad? I had no clue.”
He never forgot his beloved teacher, who he has kept in regular contact with since that fourth-grade class.
“He’s the most influential teacher that I’ve ever had. So it’s great that this whole thing is tied back to him.”
And Mr. Albrecht says perhaps that’s the real message within the bottles is that kindness can travel a long way.
“We’re more alike than we are different," said Albrecht. "And it’s a very peaceful message. And in today’s world of technology where you hit a button and it’s instantly put out there for the world to see, sometimes patience is a wonderful thing.”