Recently, 22 Hazen High School students from Renton got hands-on experience sailing a schooner during a four-night nautical trip around the San Juan Islands.
Led by Hazen science teachers Jennifer Harold and Todd Pollard, the students were given an expedited course in physics, engineering, biology, ecology, and navigation as they participated as the crew of the Schooner Adventuress.
Harold said the experience, hosted by Sound Experience, was funded by the Renton School District’s GEAR UP program, and while the students who participated were not all in the same class, they were chosen because of their STEM aptitude and would benefit most from the experience.
“Many had never been on a boat before,” Harold said. “Many of them had never even been away from home like that before.”
The five-day, four-night journey put students directly into the sailing experience. Harold said at first the rocking and heeling of the 130-foot boat with a 70-foot-tall sail mast put students in noticeable discomfort, but teachers also noticed the students becoming progressively more at-ease as they gained their sea legs.
At first, Harold said the kids showed plenty of trepidation on the boat, uncomfortable with the uncertainty of the waves and the unknown depths of the water. Soon, the students quickly showed growth as they immersed themselves in the duties, lifestyle and experience of a mariner on the sea.
Students had the chance to draw open the sail, climb the mast, navigate at night using landmarks, learn about the marine ecosystem and changing climate conditions as part of the experience.
Harold said that students were able to learn applicable physics lessons and other classroom-taught ideas in a hand-on and organic way.
“They were ‘accidentally’ learning about physics in everything they did,” Harold said.
Pollard said students were essentially integrated into the crew of the ship, participating in necessary daily duties of running a ship all while learning about STEM principles while calculating angles, square footage of sail and other factors of sailing a ship.
Pollard said the students quickly learned they were “capable of more than they realized” through the experience.
After the trip, two of the students are now getting the chance to be apprentices on the ship.
After being uncomfortable on the ship at first, Harold said the students were singing sea shanties and sharing stories of their voyage with peers by the end of the journey.
While this trip was only funded by GEAR UP once, Harold and Pollard said they are looking at ways to fund the experience for future students.