Sailing, Squid, and Monterey Bay

The Teal and Violet Bands have been sailing full steam ahead (wow, the number of water-related puns are unbelievable) these past two weeks. We have dedicated ourselves to studying sailing and beginning to explore marine biology.

In preparation for our sailing trip on the Bay, we spent a day with the crew at The San Francisco Sailing Club. They taught use how to tie a number of important sailor’s knots, including the bowline and figure eight. By the end of the lesson, there were a number of the kids tying the bowline with their eyes closed or even behind their backs.

A lesson on knots and sailing from the crew at The San Francisco Sailing Club.

Learning to tie bowline knots.

They explored the parts of a sailboat and the number of different sailboats there are, based on the number of masts, placement of masts, and sails. Since sailboats rely on the wind to move them forward, it is important to understand the placement of the sails in relation to the wind and the intended direction of the boat. To learn this, the crew taught the bands about points of sail.

As a sailboat relies on wind, a sailor most know the points of sail.

Following our field trip to the sailing club, the bands worked in groups to expand their understanding of the points of sail. Each group was tasked with making a simple 3D interactive model, made mainly out of cardboard, that would allow the user to position both the boat and sails depending on the wind and intended direction of the boat. It’s pretty incredible to figure out how you can use the wind to sail almost into it, but they’ll tell you, not directly, we don’t want flags for sails.

Creating models to teach the points of sail.

Points of sail models act as interactive teaching tools.

To begin our exploration into marine biology and in preparation for our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we took a dive (yet another water pun) into the lives of those of the phylum Mollusca, specifically squid. We explored what traits all mollusks share and explored the main classes of mollusks before focusing on the anatomy of squid. We discussed adaptations (chromatophores – skin coloring) and methods of movement (jet propulsion using a siphon.)

Exploring the phylum Mollusca, specifically squid.

Feeling a bit creative, the Teal and Violet bands painted their own giant squid. Hopefully soon, we’ll have an entire sea of creatures swimming over the dining room.

Fingerpainting our own squid.

We spent Monday morning getting our hands dirty (and a bit stinky) dissecting squid. We explored the exterior and interior anatomy, locating a number of parts including the gills, beak, gonad (yup, we could differentiate the females and the males,) ink sac and pen. It was pretty incredible to dissect the eyes as well, locating and removing the spherical lens. Squid dissections are pretty exciting because they also end with a delicious treat, fried calamari. The entire school was excited to enjoy it with us.

Exploring the interior anatomy of squid.

Bonus treat from squid dissection: fried calamari.

On Tuesday, we journeyed down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a lesson on the adaptations of a number of invertebrates that live amongst the waves. They looked at how the sand star and urchin have adapted to protect themselves in coastal areas, regularly beaten by waves, using small suction feet. They also explored how organisms such as sand crabs and anemones use the movement of the waves to their benefit of acquiring food. After our class, we got to take in all the incredible exhibits at the aquarium. Make sure to read to the bottom for a view of my favorite.

Exploring the adaptations of the sea life that live and thrive among the waves.

On Thursday, we got out on the water with the San Francisco Sailing Company. We all piled onto the 28′ Santa Maria and set sail for the Golden Gate (unfortunately, the fog kept us from making it all the way to the bridge.) As we navigated the waters, the crew would regularly quiz the bands on our point of sail. It was truly impressive how many of them really understood the concept. During our trip, we came across a square sail replica tall ship, rode the quake of a number of larger boats, and traveled under the Bay Bridge.

Sailing with the San Francisco Sailing Company.

And I shall leave you with the reason I love visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium…the jellyfish.


We are sailing and tumbling along

The last couple weeks have been quite the adventure: age of the earth math provocations, rock tumblers and sailing on the bay.

Week Four:

While joining forces with the Green Band, we worked to calculate the age of the Earth using two different strategies proposed over time. The first calculation was based on Lord Kelvin’s cooling of the Earth technique, and provided us the chance to learn about scientific notation. We learned more about Lord Kelvin from the documentary Men of Rock. Our second calculation looked at the salinity of the oceans, through Sir Edmond Halley’s work. To support our work, we learned more about metric conversion of units. This work set a foundation for our upcoming project: Timeline of the Earth.



We spent our afternoons in the shop with Sean, working on partnerships and building rock tumblers. Sean had initially told the band that they would be disassembling their rock tumblers at the end of the week, but when asked, “What if they are really good?” he said that if they built rock tumblers that could pass a one hour test, they would be able to keep them. Challenge accepted.





It was amazing how very different each of the three designs were. Justin and Quinn went straight to the Legos, Huxley and Nora got their tumbling container to spin directly connected to a drill, and Lucy, Aurora, and Patrick created a system of PVC pipes to spin their container on. While working in partners and groups wasn’t always the easiest, everyone found ways to compromise and make their voices heard in such a way that each group was able to design and build a rock tumbler that successfully passed a one hour test!!!


We broke up our week inside the building with a Wednesday field trip out onto the Bay with the Green Band. Sailing with the crew from The San Francisco Sailing Company, we had the chance to observe the rocks that make up the Marin Headlands, Angel Island, and Alactraz, as well as learn about sailing and how to tie knots. Once back on land, we made our way over to an outcropping of Alcatraz sandstone, the same type that makes up the island, over at Union and Sansome. While a group walked up the stairs to scout out more rocks, the rest stayed back to observe the sandstone, breaking it apart into smaller sandy chunks.






Week Five:

We spent much of last week working alongside the Green Band once again. This time we joined forces in the afternoons to advance the work on our rock tumblers. Our new motto became, “When the rocks are tumbling, we are winning.” By Monday afternoon we had five rock tumblers in various states of completion and by Tuesday we had one ready to run full time. Students from both bands worked to support one another on their projects and created an open source board of ideas to pull from. By the end of the week, we had two tumblers going all day! Next week we will be looking into how to power them while we are away in Mendocino and cannot change drill batteries.




The timeline of the Earth was the focus of our mornings with the Green Band. In small groups and partnerships, we found metaphorical ways to represent the timeline in smaller, more understandable chunks. We compared the timeline to everything from rings on a tree, to steps to Starbucks, to pages of the dictionary, to feet of a mountain to the minutes on a clock. The group that compared the Earth’s history to the minutes on the clock calculated that each minute represented 75 million years and that humans only came into existence in the last two seconds.







We took some time to continue our rock research. Working through three stations, we researched our rocks, sketched and painted them, and measured them in multiple ways. Next week, we will continue to research our rocks, as well as work on our creative writing piece about them.