We all know there is science in sailing but who knew that learning both together would be so interesting and so engaging! This past week, the 6thand 8thGrade students at St. John School had the opportunity to do exactly that. The were chosen to partake in a school program by New England Science and Sailing (NESS), an ocean adventure nonprofit that provides STEM-based education programs based in Stonington, CT.
New England Science and Sailing, Stonington - May 2018
The day started out in the classroom with a program overview. Students were separated into two groups. This provided the basis for the sailing rotation in the water and the hands-on marine science lesson in both the tidal pools on the Pawcatuck River and in the classroom. The 6thgraders were first to sail and got equipped with life jackets. Little did they know but along with this sailing lesson came an introduction to the physics lesson of “The Simple Machines” and how they are at work in sailing. They were soon amazed at how the “Simple Machines” of the lever, wheel & axel, inclined plane, pulley, wedge and screw are all incorporated into sailing. The captain and instructor, Mark Zagol (nicknamed “Zorro”) discussed weather and it’s influence on sailing, how it impacts waves, wind direction and simple weather tests for sailing. The physics of wind lift and airplanes were compared to the sail, keel and movement of sailboats. As each student took turns at the helm, their fellow classmates assisted with the main sail and the jib, all the while hearing more science!
As the fog in the harbor lifted, the 6thgraders headed back to shore for lunch, to be soon followed by their chemistry and marine science lesson as the 8thgraders now took to the water. Students were put into groups of three and four students. They were introduced to their experiment equipment and after a discussion about measuring techniques and sample isolation, they headed on foot to the tidal pools of the Pawcatuck River to collect their samples. The objective of the experiment was to measure three variables in both the ocean and the river and compare and contrast the results. The three variables were temperature, salinity or saltiness and dissolved oxygen. They discussed the units of measurements of each variable along with the typical ranges. After collecting the samples, students measured and recorded the results in each group. On the way back to the classroom and lab, science teacher, Mr. Pearson obtained an ocean water sample from Long Island Sound. In the lab, students had one measurement to complete – using a titration kit, they measured the amount of dissolved oxygen in each sample. As each group reported their findings, the class discussed the variation of samples and the potential influences. Who knew there would be so many interesting factors to consider? St. John School is grateful to the NESS and it’s accomplished scientists and sailors. Students enjoyed their morning in the classroom and on the water where physics, chemistry, marine life and sailing meet!