2017-06-01 / Front Page

LEARNING ON THE HIGH SEAS

SIXTH-GRADERS SET SAIL DURING SCIENCE CLASS
BY RYAN GIBBS


ABOVE: Students in Charlene Tuttle’s sixth-grade science class sail past the Dutch Island Light on a privately owned sailboat. The West Passage field trip was part of their study of forces. ABOVE: Students in Charlene Tuttle’s sixth-grade science class sail past the Dutch Island Light on a privately owned sailboat. The West Passage field trip was part of their study of forces. Never has science class been such a breeze.

Lawn School students from Charlene Tuttle’s sixth-grade class sailed through Dutch Harbor last week aboard Hobie catamarans to learn about force and forward motion. The fledgling skippers were tasked with translating lessons they learned in the classroom into a circumnavigation of Dutch Island, located about one-third of a mile from West Ferry. Not only did the students heed Tuttle’s instructions, Meg Myles from the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation led dry runs in the school’s courtyard. The classmates took turns sailing on the pavement to get used to the boat’s controls.

Myles and the foundation supervised the May 25 live exercises and also provided the boats. Crews of four students with an instructor onboard set sail from Dutch Harbor Boat Yard while the remainder joined Tuttle on a privately owned yacht.


BELOW: Eva Junge, instructor Haley Barber, Reese Montoya, Polina Wright and Maren Kalberer, left to right, sail toward the Jamestown bridge aboard a Hobie Cat during the science lesson. 
PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN BELOW: Eva Junge, instructor Haley Barber, Reese Montoya, Polina Wright and Maren Kalberer, left to right, sail toward the Jamestown bridge aboard a Hobie Cat during the science lesson. PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN “They’re learning aerodynamics, where the wind is coming from and how sailboats work,” Tuttle said. “We live on an island and the world is seventh-eighths water, so it’s important to know how to sail and be on the water.”

The idea sprung from a discussion between Tuttle and Myles late last year.

“It was a really beautiful stroke of luck,” Tuttle said. “We were looking ahead at upcoming units, and we were talking about the potential to maybe go sailing as part of the forces unit.”


Before setting sail on Dutch Harbor, students learned the basics of sailing in the Lawn School courtyard. Meg Myles from the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation led the lessons. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Before setting sail on Dutch Harbor, students learned the basics of sailing in the Lawn School courtyard. Meg Myles from the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation led the lessons. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Incorporating the sport not only would teach the class how forces affected real-life situations, Myles said, but it would be a memorable way to learn. After the idea was approved by the school’s administration, two dry sailing lessons were added to Tuttle’s agenda, one in the morning and the other in the early afternoon. Both of her classes participated.

The first sailing lesson was May 22, when the students completed dry-land drills aboard a wooden pram and a Hobie, a small double-hulled sailboat typically used by beginners. Following a crash course on the basics of sailing, the classes were taught science concepts that tied into their adventure.

“We talked about how sails work and how they work together, and how air hits the sail and moves from high to low pressure,” Myles said. “It was a great example of science in real life.”

T.J. Coleman, a student in Tuttle’s class, said the practice helped him prepare for the real deal two days later.

“I didn’t know how to sail before, but now I’m more experienced than I used to be,” he said. “When you’re learning to sail, you’re learning to do new things.”

Apart from one Hobie venturing off track toward the Jamestown bridge, the excursions were a success. As they were sailing on open water, the students took turns steering their boats and operating the sails. After circling Dutch Island, the students returned to the boatyard with 90 minutes of sailing under their belts.

Stephanie Holland said she has a newfound knowledge about how pressure affects sailing vessels. “I learned that a lot of the pressure is from the wind, the water and the current,” she said.

“It was really helpful to see how all the difference forces are used together, especially out there in the environment where we actually do things for real, not just in class,” added classmate

McKenzie Gardner.

Although Gardner had sailed before, she had never circumnavigated Dutch Island. She said that the experience varied in its difficulty.

“It was a little bit hard,” she said. “We had to sail against the current because it was stronger out in the front of Dutch, but once we got around, it was easier.”

Jackson Fortenberry, who was one of the students that manned the private yacht, said he learned how the wind affected the boat’s movement.

“There were some points where we were really slow, and there was no real wind there,” he said. “And then there were some points where there was a lot of wind and we were going really fast.”

Fortenberry also got a chance to steer the yacht, an experience he called “one of a kind.”

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