Sailing through math class

Chris Tucker ctucker@ptleader.com
Posted 4/18/17

Helping young students sail through their math classes was the goal of a Grant Street Elementary field trip to tour a schooner and visit to a sailmaking shop.

In the upstairs level of the Port …

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Sailing through math class

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Helping young students sail through their math classes was the goal of a Grant Street Elementary field trip to tour a schooner and visit to a sailmaking shop.

In the upstairs level of the Port Townsend Sails sailmaking shop near Port Hudson Marina, large strips of white sailcloth laid on the wooden floor as employees busily worked to repair worn sails and create new ones.

About a dozen first-grade students and their teachers watched as the employees did their work during the April 11 field trip. Some 45 students took part in four different groups that rotated through different stops, which included the Northwest Maritime Center boat shop and the beach.

“Sails are wings,” sort of like an upright airplane wing, Port Townsend Sails owner Carol Hasse explained to the children as they toured the shop.

Hasse pulled out a length of tape measure and told the children that one of the first steps in making a new sail is to measure the ship.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION

The trip was meant to help kids marry math to real-world application of mathematics as part of a “place-based learning” exercise. It also aimed to pique interest in the maritime industry.

The children watched as an employee measured a length of cloth to make a long sleeve on a new sail. The sleeve would later hold a batten. Hasse said sails have powered ships for carrying cargo, fishing, exploration and warfare.

She motioned to a wall-size map of the world on the back wall of the sail shop.

“Water connects us to everywhere,” Hasse said.

“Power is kind of new,” Hasse added of engine-powered boats, noting that humanity was still trying to figure out how to be safe with power.

The children later donned life vests and toured the docked schooner Martha, where Captain Robert d’Arcy and Mary d’Arcy taught the children the names of the boat parts and let them help unfurl a sail.

The field trip was made possible by funding through Washington Sea Grant. In addition, the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation currently funds a math fluency project in the Port Townsend School District called Math and Maritime Project-based Learning.

The first-grade teachers leading the trip, Heather Sanders and Kaleen Steinke, plan to have each student design and test a sail for their own model boat later this spring. Design and investigation – through hands-on activities – is promoted through the K-12 Maritime Discovery Schools Initiative in the Port Townsend School District.

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