Learn-by-Doing: Maritime High School Students Dive into the Maritime Industry

It’s almost mid-way through year two of Maritime High School (MHS), and the 9th- and 10th-grade classes have been busy engaging in frequent boat-based learning trips and field experiences with industry partners. Based in Des Moines, WA, the school’s project based learning and STEM-focused approach allows students to spend increased time out of the classroom—learning by doing and experiencing the maritime world first-hand. 

The veteran 10th-graders of MHS began the school year with a few nautical miles under their belts. After refamiliarizing themselves with M/V Admiral Jack, the Northwest Maritime Center’s floating classroom, they began digging into four quarters of maritime-intensive project based learning. All the while, this year’s introductory 9th-grade students began their high school experience aboard Admiral Jack—some of them never having been on a boat before!

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This school year has already been chock-full of incredible experiences and hands-on projects. During a visit to Fishermen’s Terminal, 10th-grade students learned about the role of commercial fishing and hatcheries in west coast fisheries management, and how human activities such as the construction of Ballard Locks impact natural systems and watersheds. They’ve also obtained their Paddle Safe certification and participated in a 5-day trip to the San Juan Islands aboard Schooner Zodiac where they camped on Lopez Island—learning the basics of sailing and completing marine science experiments.

Approaching the new year, the sophomore students attended the Pacific Marine Expo and a maritime industry conference where they interacted with industry professionals and learned about careers in vessel maintenance. Students are currently connecting with maritime professionals in the fields of shipping and logistics, exploring the roles this industry plays in regional and global economies and discovering career opportunities in the field. At an informational day at Centerline Logistics, they were given voyage planning scenarios and tours of their vessels at the dock. Upcoming trips include Seattle Architecture, Pier 55 & 56 projects, and the Coleman Ferry Terminal to provide content for them to work on CAD projects for marine spatial planning. In between all of that, they will begin their OSHA 10 certification—whew!

While there is some overlap in training and education between 9th and 10th-grade students, this year’s 9th graders have been focusing on getting acquainted with their new floating classroom—which means diving into vessel operations, voyage planning, safety, and knot tying, combined with STEM activities… never a dull moment! After getting to know the Duwamish River and working with Pacific Pile & Marine, NOAA representatives, and the Tukwila Parks Department, the freshman students led a river tour aboard Admiral Jack with industry professionals and community folks where they attempted to answer the question, “Who and what make up the historic and contemporary Duwamish River Valley Community(ies)?” 

Now, in quarter two, 9th-graders are learning about microplastics in the environment, preparing presentations about recycling, conducting multiple science experiments in the MHS lab, and working on an upcycle art project which includes an artist statement. This is all in conjunction with water quality field sampling with Puget Soundkeeper, beach clean-ups with the Surfrider Foundation, trash sorting, and data collection, and a Legislation 101 workshop. This project will culminate in two greater projects: a presentation to state lawmakers at the capital in Olympia and a community-led beach clean-up at Seahurst Park. Voyaging and canoe building await in quarter three!

The learn-by-doing approach guides the curriculum at Maritime High School and provides engaging, professional opportunities to inspire students into career pathways and teach important life skills to help them achieve their dreams. MHS is currently accepting applications for incoming 9th-, 10th-, and 11th-graders for the upcoming 2023-24 school year! If you know a high schooler who would excel in a hands-on, project-based learning environment, now is the time to apply; the application window is open until January 31. There are upcoming information sessions on January 18 and January 25 at the Maritime High School Library located at 615 S 200th St, Des Moines, WA. Learn more and apply at maritime.highlineschools.org.



Maritime High School is a collaborative project of Highline Public Schools, Northwest Maritime Center, Port of Seattle, and the Duwamish River Community Coalition.