In the fall, a group of middle school and upper elementary students took a 4-day expedition with Salish Sea Expeditions. It was one of those experiences that will be remembered by everyone for years to come.
Before we began our adventure, the Salish folks came to visit us and help us in designing our trip. We were enlisted in deciding where to sail in the Puget Sound, what experiments we wanted to perform, and the equipment we would use, even the food we would eat. It was indeed an exercise in cooperation, consensus and team building. It also afforded us the opportunity to prepare for the excursion in ways physically as well as emotionally.
The day arrived when we all loaded up in cars before daybreak and headed west. We arrived at the marina and in short order received our preliminary instructions and loaded the Carlin, our boat for the week. Even though we were well prepared, we couldn’t have imagined ahead of time all the incredible experiences we would encounter.
The week went fast and the students learned a ton. They were involved in every aspect of their day. After breakfast, they were divided into two groups – one group worked on deck learning to sail and gathering samples to help them answer their scientific inquiry, while the other group got a lot of experience with microscopes indentifying the various microscopic sea life they would be encountering during the week. Then the groups would switch. The afternoon routine was similar, although different ways of collecting data for the scientific question were used.
Late into the afternoons we sailed and decided where to drop anchor and camp. Some of us slept on the boat while the rest camped on land. Different designated groups took turns preparing meals and cleaning up. After dinner we settled into group games and dessert. It didn’t take long for everyone to crash once our heads hit the pillows.
We do a lot of science at Chelan Valley Independent School and this trip was one way of showing the students how science can work in everyday life. They learned how to gather data using tools of the trade, identify single cell aquatic organisms, and apply the scientific method in a realistic situation, in a way that a marine biologist would.
They were also exposed to innumerable new things. They learned how to sail, navigate, cook on a boat, play new games, work cohesively and efficiently, and realize how everyone has talents – some maybe not as obvious as others – that can be shared to make an experience like sailing on the Puget Sound so memorable. Everyone’s gifts were valued. It was truly an experience that they will speak about fondly for the rest of their lives.