Field Trip On a Boat? Yes!

Kelsey BrennerAll, Maritime High School, Youth Programs

By Nancy Israel, Education Program Manager

In October and November this year, up to 240 8th graders from six middle schools representing diverse communities south of Seattle have been given the opportunity to leave their school campus for the day to learn aboard Admiral Jack, Northwest Maritime Center’s new 40-foot floating classroom. 

It’s been at least a year since most students have been able to go on a field trip and many from this district have never had the opportunity to be on a boat before. These trips are designed to engage students from communities that have traditionally been underserved by maritime programs in a fun on-the-water experience and introduce them to the possibility of attending the new Maritime High School in 9th grade. Step into the shoes of an 8th grader from Highline Public Schools attending a Northwest Maritime Center/Salish Sea Expeditions one-day trip:

Arrive by bus at the Des Moines Marina, smell the sea air! Meet the fantastic crew: Program Coordinator Kat, Marine ScienceEducator Angelica, Deckhand/Educator Elaine, and Captain Scott who will help you get oriented and suited up in bright orange rain gear to keep warm and dry. Excitement and nervousness are in the air, but this soon gives way to laughter and smiles. Put on your sea legs as you step aboard the vessel. Captain Scott’s safety briefing will put you at ease. As Admiral Jack heads out of the marina, the loud sounds of the major refit going on at the breakwater draw your attention. Begin rotating through stations that focus on inquiry-based learning of plankton, water quality, and sense of place/navigation while voyaging out in East Passage, Puget Sound. 

While at the Plankton Station, figure out how to sample for plankton with two different nets. Identify the curious-looking phyto (plant) and zoo (animal) plankton with microscopes while discovering the important role they play in the marine ecosystem. During the Water Quality Station, get ready to get wet while investigating by using water sampling equipment like a depth sampler, pH meter, thermometer, and a secchi disk (turbidity test). Make comparisons between surface and depth samples. Come up with questions that could be studied further. 

Getting a Sense of Place at the Navigation Station involves discovering where you are located by using charts and maps. Feel the wind and observe the weather conditions using your senses and other tools. Learn to use a compass and chart to find your location. Take a turn at steering the boat with Captain Scott. 

While eating lunch aboard and taking in the scenery, keep your eyes open for marine mammals like a harbor seal or even arare sighting of an elephant seal. As the boat returns to the dock, reflect on the memories and new experiences that will provide stepping stones to further learning and discovery. The opportunity to join Maritime High School next year is an exciting possibility!