Students in Ron Witter’s fifth grade class at Discovery Elementary School got quite the field trip Sept. 29 as part of their lesson plan to study pH levels in the Puget Sound.
The students boarded “Adventuress,” a historic schooner operated by Sound Experience, a nonprofit that sails the vessel to “educate, inspire, and empower an inclusive community” that works to improve the marine environment and celebrates maritime heritage.
For the fifth consecutive year, students departed Gig Harbor bound for Commencement Bay.
The trip was arranged to give students hands-on experience with science, Witter said.
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“While underway, students are able to test the pH level of ocean water and, after adding carbon dioxide, learn about the effects that pollutants have on its acidity,” he said. “From there, students are able to extrapolate and realize the effect that ocean acidification has on Earth systems.”
Students also captured plankton samples to examine with a microscope to distinguish between the different types.
“My students are always impressed that the ocean’s phytoplankton produces half of the world’s oxygen,” Witter said.
Students also got the chance to learn what life was like on a sailboat and how to correctly use navigation techniques — as well as an opportunity to sail the schooner with help from Bronco Billy, captain of the Adventuress.
Witter said students always enjoy raising the sails, and while on board they learned the proper hand techniques to hoist them while singing a sea shanty, “Cape Cod Girls,” a tune they learned in school prior to the trip.
Kendall Duncan, one of the students on the trip, confirmed his favorite part was hoisting the sails because he had fun singing the shanty while doing it.
Another student, Elise Miller, enjoyed the science side of the trip more.
“I learned that plankton provides 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe,” she said. “I also learned that if you breathe carbon dioxide into salt water it makes it more acidic.”
Joshua Leonard enjoyed learning more about whales on the trip, but his favorite part was raising the sails as well.
“Something that I learned was that there are more types of whales than I knew,” he said. “My favorite part what when we put the sails up and started sailing.”
Overall, three fifth grade classrooms were divided into two groups for the field trip, one which sailed from 9 a.m. to noon and another from 1 to 4 p.m.
“Students were very excited for this trip,” Witter said.
Richard Venne, a retired IT worker and approved parent/grandparent volunteer, said his granddaughter, Lilah Carter, was one of the participants.
“She was very excited about the experience,” Venne said after speaking to her over the phone when the field trip concluded.
Venne has had other opportunities to attend field trips with the school and take pictures.
Another trip he volunteered for was walking the students from the school to the harbor, where he was able to take pictures as well.
Venne isn’t able to go on every field trip, but when he can he makes sure to attend, he said.