Salish Sea Expeditions: Hyla School, June 2022

By Abbie Smith, SSE Program Manager

We ended our spring season with a four-day trip on Schooner Zodiac with a group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from Hyla School. We set off from Bellingham and sailed to Sucia Island where we camped for three nights. Each day we sailed in a different direction and were so excited to see orcas!

Sixty-one-foot Schooner Zodiac takes all hands on deck to set sail. On day one, students were assigned a sailing station to learn with the goal of being able to run that station without much guidance from the crew by the end of the trip. I watched, amused, as the students tried to understand and carry out their instructions to varying degrees of success and wondered if we’d ever get the sails up. Over the next few days when students were called to their stations, I saw little by little progress—instead of questioning their every move with a look to the crew for reassurance, students took action confidently and with greater ownership. I was amazed and proud to see the transformation. Even on our high-wind rainy day, the students hauled and coiled and reefed with confidence. At the end of the trip, their teacher said, ”The kids loved sailing—especially seeing whales and conquering fears in high winds and pouring rain. The sunny days were cool too.”

Along with learning new sailing skills, the students from Hyla learned how to deploy and use scientific equipment to take water samples and gather data. They decided they wanted to see if there was a relationship between plankton and temperature. The students were invested in the output of their investigation, and even though they didn’t have enough data to draw a strong conclusion, they were able to identify what to do differently next time. And of course, everyone loved looking at plankton.

Evenings on shore included hikes, skipping rocks, painting with watercolors, and spontaneous student-led mini ”Ted Talks.” A big piece of trips this past spring was the fact that students and teachers left their classrooms and computer screens to spend face-to-face time uninterrupted by technology. We repeatedly heard that this was just the thing they all needed after two years without these types of experiences. It was healing for them, and for us!