Friday, February 12, 2016

Blue Heron Students Join the Fight against Ocean Acidification and Marine Debris

In early February, fifth graders from Blue Heron School stepped onto Adventuress to learn about ocean acidification, marine debris, and life aboard the ship.

When Winter Programs Coordinator Megan Addison asked students to guess the age of the ship, they proved themselves better guessers than their third grade counterparts a few weeks back (Adventuress is 103—a venerable and historic age that falls slightly short of a thousand). Climbing aboard, these twenty students had the chance to see Adventuress as she is in winter: topmasts laid across the deck, deck boxes shiny with varnish, and a sense of many tasks completed and many remaining as winter crew, volunteers, and high school students work together to prepare the ship for the start of the sailing season in March.

In the deckhouse, a small group of students gathered around Megan as she taught an interactive lesson on ocean acidification. During one of the most impactful portions of the lesson, she had students test the pH of two samples of water. The first sample, straight from Puget Sound, registered as a bright and cheerful blue, which the students identified as a nearly neutral 7.6 (seawater is slightly more basic than freshwater). 

Winter Programs Coordinator Megan Addison discusses the
pH scale with fifth graders from Blue Heron School.
Next, a student named Madisyn took the beaker with the second sample and blew into the water with a straw.  Megan explained that humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2, and that Madisyn was adding high levels of COto the “metaphorical ocean” in the beaker.  When the students tested this sample, the water turned a light yellow-green, indicating a more acidic pH of 6.6.  Megan went on to pass around two oyster shells—a pristine shell in seawater and a shell with pieces flaking off in a more acidic solution.  She explained that the ocean takes up CO2 from the atmosphere and becomes more acidic, and that higher levels of acidity can harm marine organisms—especially larval shellfish that are just beginning to develop their shells.

Although the students entered with a working knowledge of the pH scale, testing the two samples gave them an understanding of what more acidic ocean water actually means for the health of Puget Sound. As with all environmental education aboard Adventuress, Megan and the students also discussed how they can make a difference for the future of our marine environment. Later, Finn recalled the lesson on ocean acidification as his favorite part of the trip: “I liked testing the acidity of the water, because it changed color a lot quicker than I expected after adding CO2.” His friend Joseph chimed in to agree. “I like science,” he said.

Elsewhere on the ship, volunteer extraordinaire Tom Weiner talked about marine debris and microplastics as he passed around a jar of plastic recently collected from a beach on Sucia Island. He described how a dead gray whale that washed up in West Seattle several years ago was found with a stomach full of garbage: 20 plastic bags, sweatpants, a golf ball, and a great deal more.  Asked what they would do differently after stepping off the ship, many students focused on producing less garbage. Said one student, “Try not to buy so much plastic, and if you’re buying a plastic bottle you should reuse or recycle, not just throw it away.”

Blue Heron students head below decks for a tour of the ship.
Below decks, winter crew member Kat gave a tour of the ship, guiding students through the main cabin, galley, bowling alley, and foc’sle. Reactions were split. One student said that he was surprised by how big the boat was below decks; another student was surprised by how small. This was Kyle’s favorite part of the trip.  After explaining that his only experience on the water was taking the ferry, he said, “I liked looking below decks and looking at the engine.” 

After the closing circle, students were a chorus of energy and excitement as they stepped off Adventuress and walked down the dock. Many had big ideas to take home. According to Angel, “If you see any plastic bottles or any garbage on the beach, you can help pick it up.” They returned to their classroom for the rest of the day, loaded up with a few more tools for protecting Puget Sound.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Young Hands, Old Boat: High School Students Get Hands-On Experience aboard Adventuress

For an hour-and-a-half each Tuesday and Thursday, Port Townsend High School students in Kelley Watson’s Maritime Manufacturing class get a rare opportunity: the chance to stand up, stretch their limbs, and take part in hands-on learning in their high school woodshop and aboard the 103-year-old schooner Adventuress. Since the beginning of the school year, they’ve developed their hand tool and woodworking skills as they’ve tackled a range of assignments; students spoke proudly about projects that ranged from making a dovetailed box to building a table to restoring a set of century-old saws.

The winter cover on Adventuress allows the ship to serve as
 a "floating dockside classroom" for over 300 local students.
This winter, the eleven students in Watson’s class also have the chance to help with maintenance work aboard Adventuress, from sanding booms to assisting with the construction of the winter cover that allows Adventuress to serve as a “floating dockside classroom” for over 300 local students in grades 1-12. Watson’s students first came aboard in December when Adventuress was on the hard in Boat Haven, and since then have helped with maintenance projects while the ship has been moored at Point Hudson Marina. Additionally, members of Adventuress’ winter crew regularly visit the woodshop classroom to help with ongoing projects. Says teacher Kelley Watson, “It’s such a valuable experience… A lot of these students have never been on a boat before.”

Students work to disassemble and clean blocks.
On a recent Tuesday morning, the shop was buzzing with activity: half of the students sanded Adventuress’ foreboom in preparation for a fresh coat of varnish while the other half worked to clean some of the roughly 80 blocks that are used aboard Adventuress.  Two students, Bella and Zach, took a break from the hubbub to reflect on what time aboard Adventuress means to them.

Seventeen-year-old Zach says, “It’s the only hands-on class I have, which is something I really learn by.  It’s much more involvement than sitting in a chair all day.”  He’s been aboard three times this winter, and the sheer massiveness of Adventuress—both the size of the ship and the scope of her history—has left him with a lasting impression: “It was cool the feeling of how old it is.  It has such an interesting history. It’s really so big, you just get this sense of excitement...  Your mind just fills up with thoughts of what happens on the boat when people are sailing.  What does it sound like? What does it look like?”  He also values the mentorship of winter crew, three of whom were guiding projects in the shop that day: “It’s been an honor to work with people on Adventuress, people who are experts.  It’s cool to be around them, to look up to them.” 

Sanding the foreboom.
Another student, sixteen-year-old Bella, has discovered in interest in restoration work—she was the one who restored the century-old saws.  Reflecting on the value of this type of work, Bella says, “It’s already made, it’s already there, but getting it back to its glory days, restoring it, that’s really important… These types of things need to be restored. They’re part of our history that we need to keep.”  Given that Adventuress is a National Historic Landmark whose entire hull was recently restored as part of a five year project that ended in April of 2014, time aboard the ship fits perfectly with Bella’s passions.  She echoes Zach’s sentiment about the value of hands-on work: “This is by far one of my favorite classes. I love to learn hands on. It gets through my brain more.”  She especially values the opportunity to experience firsthand the beauty and complexity of the ship: “In high school you don’t get a lot of field trips. You don’t get to go out and do things like this… It’s so important to actually look at how beautiful the little details really are [aboard Adventuress]. You can’t get that from a textbook or a website.”

Watson has several other shop classes that are spending regular time aboard Adventuress this winter, along with students of many different ages from Port Townsend schools and the surrounding areas.  We hope you’ll follow along as we share fun and inspiring stories from our work this winter—and we hope you’ll step aboard when the sailing season begins in March!  Sound Experience offers overnight trips for teens, families, and adults, a Membership program that allows free sailing on over twenty Public Sails each year, and many other opportunities to join our welcoming and enthusiastic community.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Voyager Students Start Winter Work on Adventuress by Stickering Wood

Last Friday, high school students from the Community Boat Project’s (CBP) Puget Sound Voyagers program “stickered” the wood that will be used for Adventuress’ planned deck rebuild in the winter of 2017/2018. Under the guidance of past Adventuress Captain Wayne Chimenti—now the lead instructor at CBP—students, CBP volunteers, and members of the Adventuress crew stacked forty-foot pieces of lumber, placing a series of small sticks between each layer so that air circulation will help the wood dry properly during its year-and-a-half in storage. In between the hubbub and activity, two students—Emily and Aelf—spoke about what working on Adventuress means to them.
Sixteen-year-old Emily has a long history with Adventuress: Girls at the Helm (GATH) trips in 2012 and 2013, as well as work aboard Adventuress with the Voyager program this year and last. Participating in the immense preparation for the deck rebuild inspired Emily to speak about the side of sailing that she didn’t see on GATH: each year’s community-oriented effort to preserve, restore, and protect Adventuress to ensure that she sails for generations to come. Says Emily, “It’s really exciting to see the raw materials that are needed for the deck. I love getting to see this perspective… Last year we got to do a lot of small repairs and participate in behind-the-scenes work that you don’t see if you just come aboard to sail… I like seeing the deeper work that goes into taking care of the boat. I really appreciate being a part of this.”

Of her two trips on Adventuress, Emily says, “[Girls at the Helm] was so great the first year I just had to come back.” Her favorite memories center around the sense of community that crew and participants created onboard: “I loved building friendships with people who came from all across the country.” Now, looking ahead towards her time on Adventuress this winter, she has a GATH-worthy goal: “I hope to become more comfortable in a leadership position.”

Aelf, also sixteen, appreciated the continuity of last year’s winter projects. She says, “We came back week after week so that we could see the work we had done.” Now, with the Voyagers just beginning their time on Adventuress—they’ll return to the ship each Friday for the rest of winter—she’s also excited to have access to Adventuress’ science equipment, especially the plankton net and plankton identification materials. She says, “You can study plankton all you want, but it’s not the same as actually using a plankton net and seeing them under a microscope.” Discussing the experiential aspect of time aboard, she says, “Adventuress is the connection between sea, science, sailing, and getting your hands on things. That connection is missing a lot these days.” (Aelf was also interviewed last year—if you’d like to read more about her story, including her experience as a scholarship recipient on the Fantastic Voyage 3-Day, you can scroll down or click here.)

Over 300 students in grades 1-12 will step aboard Adventuress this winter, integrating their classroom curriculum with experiential learning on the ship. We’ll be posting regular stories on this blog, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Seabacs Scholarships a Student, Snags a School

This year, the Seabacs Boeing Employees Boat Club provided a $500 scholarship for a deserving young person from Fort Vancouver High School to sail aboard Adventuress for our 6-day Fantastic Voyage program. Pat Forbes, former Commodore and current Junior Past-Commodore, spoke about why Seabacs chose to so generously support Adventuress.

Seabacs' main purpose is for employees and associates of Boeing to boat together and enjoy the Sound. Says Pat, "We try to support the boating community as much as we can… When you can actually invest yourself in the community as a club, then you’ve really got something." 

Of introducing the scholarship idea to other Seabacs members, Pat says, "Everyone was really happy that we could support Adventuress in such a tangible way and give someone the opportunity to sail and gain experience on the water... Adventuress is so well known in the region. It’s an important program that you run." Pat describes the water as "a whole different world"—a place of calm and serenity. He firmly believes that "giving other people that experience is a responsibility we have as boaters." 

In fact, the impact of the Seabacs scholarship has expanded well beyond one person. Andrea Johnson, the travel coordinator at Fort Vancouver High School, recently spoke about the school's continuing relationship with Sound Experience. In April of 2016, a group of freshmen from Fort Vancouver H.S. will step aboard Adventuress for a 3-day program. In many ways, says Andrea, the Seabacs scholarship student has served as an Adventuress ambassador: "She loved it. She came back and she was totally beaming. It was a positive experience for her. She tells other students, 'Oh my gosh, you have to go on this trip.'" 

Andrea believes that time on Adventuress will be incredibly valuable to her students, who might otherwise not have the chance to go out on the water. She describes Fort Vancouver H.S. as a "vibrant place… There is nowhere on the planet like Fort Vancouver." Their 1500 students represent 30 countries and speak 40 languages. Says Andrea, "We have all the urban issues of poverty and unemployment, but the kids here are really kind, really accepting." 

As part of the school's new travel-focused curriculum, students will have the chance to step aboard Adventuress and deepen their understanding of the marine environment. Says Andrea, "We want to teach that, 'Yes, what we do in our homes in Vancouver affects Puget Sound, affects the Columbia River right next to us.'" Andrea mentions the Community School, whose 5th grade students have sailed on Adventuress for the past 16 years: "I tell my students, 'That's our goal: that we’ll be doing this for the next 16 years. And you are part of the inaugural year.'" 

Thank you, Seabacs, for bringing a young person aboard and helping to strengthen a relationship with Fort Vancouver High School that will allow many more students to sail on Adventuress! As part of our 29 Dollars, 29 Days: Getting Kids on the Boat campaign, we hope this story illustrates that a contribution of any amount can have a lasting impact on our region’s young people. To make your contribution to 29 Dollars, 29 Days through December 1st and help raise funds to scholarship deserving young people to sail on Adventuress, you can click here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Young People from the Suquamish Tribe Step Aboard Adventuress

At the end of September, young people from the Suquamish Tribe stepped aboard Adventuress for a 3-day overnight program that combined Suquamish cultural activities with environmental education. Entering its second year, this collaboration with the Suquamish Tribe was originally conceived as a way of encouraging young people to pursue science learning with the hope that someday more Tribal scientists will manage Tribal fisheries and maritime resources.  

Our view from Adventuress as participants paddle away.
On the last day of the program, with Adventuress anchored in the waters of Port Madison Bay, students rotated through a special set of “orbits”: climbing in the rigging and canoeing in a traditional dugout canoe. Uniting his time aboard Adventuress with time in a canoe was very important to Jayden, who says, “My spirit is in a canoe… When I go in the canoe I don’t get tired. I use my energy to the fullest. I think it’s a great opportunity because I’m representing the Tribe.” 

Although most of the participants knew each other before the trip, many reported that their favorite memories centered around bonding as a group. Says Jayden, “I loved when we were all working together. Not everyone gets to have the experience of cooperating and working as a team.” Kaylayla echoes this sentiment, saying, “I learned that I can work with a big group of people… We can all work together and be strong.” Cody remembers Anchor Watch with Crew Member Axcelle and a small group of friends: “It was really fun, just sitting out there making sure that everyone was safe.”  

Young people from the Suquamish Tribe test the pH
of Puget Sound water as part of a lesson on ocean acidification.
While climbing the rigging, participants had a unique perspective of their home—a 360 degree view of Agate Pass, Mount Rainier in the distance, and The House of Awakened Culture on the nearby shore, where people bustled in and out as they prepared a feast and presentation for Suquamish community members and Sound Experience crew. Of going aloft, Simonne says, “It was scary, the ropes were moving back and forth, but I touched the top… It was pretty, because I could see really, really far. It was quiet and peaceful. If there was somewhere to sit, I would stay forever.”

Simonne and nearly all of the other participants had previous experience on the water crabbing and fishing. Many spoke about how different it was to live on a tall ship. Says Jayden, “We’re not fishing, no pots or fishing rods, more lines, more people.” Still, Jayden points out that many maritime skills carry over between vessels: “It’s great to have the experience of tying knots here so that I can use them for fishing.”

At the end of the program, as Suquamish community members and Adventuress crew gathered to share a delicious meal, it was hard not to feel that it was an especially successful trip. Says Cody, “We saw at least one or two [whales] everyday… It was pretty much like they were following us.” Later, after a presentation of traditional dances and games, the enormous doors of the House of Awakened Culture were thrown open. The lunar eclipse was taking place, and the moon was red above the water.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why GiveBIG? 5th Grade Teachers Speak About the Impact of Our Programs

Tuesday, May 5th is GiveBIG—a one day event in which contributions to nonprofits in the Puget Sound area are "stretched" through the generosity of the Seattle Foundation. In even bigger news, all gifts to Sound Experience up to the first $5,000 will be matched by an anonymous donor. On Tuesday, anything you give will have an even bigger impact on furthering Sound Experience's mission to educate, inspire, and empower an inclusive community to make a difference for the future of our marine environment. Read on to find out about the types of programs and experiences that your GiveBIG donation will support:

In March, Wendee Schoonover, Jaime Durst, and Cassie Quirino brought 5th graders from Scenic Hill Elementary School aboard Adventuress for two Sound Studies programs. Located in the Kent School District, Scenic Hill serves a diverse population of whom 80% receive free and reduced lunch. A full scholarship from Sound Experience made it possible for students to come aboard for what Jaime describes as “the gift of a lifetime and a memory-maker.”

While still on land—even before the magic of raising the sails and singing chanteys—it was clear to the three teachers from Scenic Hill that Adventuress offered their students a new opportunity to interact with the environment in which they live. As evidence, only one boy in a group of forty students raised his hand when Jaime asked who had spent time aboard any type of boat—let alone a 102-year-old schooner. Says Jaime, “Most of our students have lived in Puget Sound their whole lives, but never had an experience like this.”

Wendee recalls dividing into Watch Groups and brainstorming names for each Watch with students and crew members: “We had team spirit going right off the bat.” She also appreciates the thought and planning that went into Watch Group rotations such as a plankton trawl, a lesson on marine debris, and an interactive demonstration of mechanical advantage. Says Wendee, “[The rotations were] so perfectly handled and timed so well. It was great for 5th graders and great for adults. The crew made it look really easy.” In fact, students were so engaged in shipboard activities that they were on their best behavior. Says Jaime, “Normally when you have that many kids together, you have behavior issues. We had almost no behavior issues because everyone wanted to participate so much.”

All three teachers agree on the positive impact of their time aboard. Even weeks after the trip, Cassie notices that her students still bring it up: “They still talk about it today. Obviously it made an impact in their lives… if they hadn’t been given this opportunity, they wouldn’t have the chance in their lifetime. They’ll never forget this.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hands-on Learning with Port Townsend High School's Maritime Studies Class

As part of the Maritime Discovery Schools Initiative, students from Kelley Watson’s Maritime Studies class at Port Townsend High School have come aboard Adventuress during the winter months to develop their maintenance and maritime skills. Each Wednesday, the ship transforms into a bustling dockside classroom full of students absorbed in hands-on learning opportunities and a multitude of projects related to the upkeep of a 102-year-old schooner.

Mechanic Walt Trisdale teaches about Adventuress' engine
Throughout the winter, four students have worked with mechanic Walt Trisdale to help realign the engine shaft. Today, before Walt arrives, crew member Chris guides them as they tighten hard-to-reach bolts. Wearing clear plastic safety goggles, students Ellis and Cameron lift up the galley soles and reach so deep inside the boat that their arms disappear as they lie on the floor. Although their task serves a practical purpose, it also functions as an unexpected team-building exercise–Ellis holds the bolt while Cameron, unable to see his hands, reaches in to place the nut.

On deck, a group of students interested in carpentry assists with the final steps in the placement of a “sister”–a beam designed to support one of the historic joists in the fo’c’sle. On deck, the fasteners holding the sister beam in place have been plugged with bungs. Now, the students take turns using a chisel to make the bungs flush with the deck. Gabe narrates the process, then points at older bungs on deck that are so well-disguised that they’re hard to see, using these as an example of what he and his classmates hope to achieve. Of working on Adventuress, he says, “We wouldn’t be able to learn this on campus.” He especially values the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning outside of a traditional classroom: “I’m really an active person. I really like doing things, more than just writing or taking a test.”

Crew Member Nikki helps a student measure his ditty bag.
Another group of students work with crew members Nikki and Gaia to cut and stitch ditty bags–a type of cloth bag that sailors often use to hold small articles and tools.  After carefully measuring on cloth spread across the deck, the students cut out their ditty bags and then begin marking the placement of their stitches. While this goes on, Atlas sits in the deckhouse with an alternate project: using a fid to interweave strands of rope, forming a loop in a piece of line. She learned about splicing a few months ago aboard Adventuress, and since then an interest in ropework and bosunry has completely absorbed her.

Crew Member Aimee gives advice on splicing.
Atlas loves that her time aboard Adventuress connects her to Port Townsend’s maritime history and to the possibility of a career in the maritime industry. This summer, she hopes to work for a company that runs whale-watching boats out of Port Townsend, and she believes that her time aboard Adventuress will give her an advantage: “Saying that I’ve been working on this hundred-year-old schooner looks good. If I was just in a class about boats I would have less credibility.”  Summing up her time aboard Adventuress, she says, “I know that not a lot of people get this opportunity… I tell friends in other parts of the country, ‘Oh, it’s Wednesday, I’m headed to the boat,’ and they can’t believe it... I can go straight from school, walk fifteen minutes, and be able to apply my skills in a useful way.  There’s no substitute for experience.”