Salish Sea Expeditions: Curiosity at Sea

by Simona Clausnitzer, School Programs Manager

As the evening dusk lingers, stars begin to appear in the sky. Students gather on deck—it’s been an action-packed day of sailing and science, but they have one last task before bed. They whisper excitedly (frantically) to each other as they gently lower their creation into the water. 

Earlier that day, they were given an empty bottle, a funnel, “the cod end” of a plankton net, line, tape, and a flashlight and were instructed to build something. No further instructions. The only rules? It must attach securely to the boat, and it must survive in the ocean overnight without falling apart. As darkness fell, it was time to deploy their engineering creation.

The next morning, the breakfast bell rouses students. Some head straight for the waffles. Others pop up on deck, still groggy, and peer over the side of the boat—curiosity as their coffee. Had any big fish ventured into their prototype? Any small fish? Any…thing? Together, we pull their creations back on deck, cold sea water dripping amidst an audible group gasp of excitement. 

Here’s where it differs. No deployment is the same since each group’s design is different, and so is the natural world: every night a mystery dictated by the tides, the moon, the weather, and infinite other variables. On the last trip, we caught a squirming mass of polychaete worms in their own goo. The trip before was thousands of tiny blue copepod eggs. 

If you join us on this journey, your students will go through the exploratory process of creation and discovery, design and redesign, as they dive into their roles as marine scientists and engineers. My only request: don’t give away these secrets to your students. They have so much to uncover themselves.