Life on the Ocean Wave with The Island Trust and Widening Horizons
Even though the children in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth live close to the sea, they don’t all get a chance to find out about what lives in it and what people do there.
During one week in October, Widening Horizons, an innovative programme developed by the Millfields Trust to engage the young people there with the world of work, teamed up with us to deliver Life on the Ocean Wave from our base at Plymouth Yacht Haven.
Two of our traditionally rigged sail training vessels hosted one class, ranging from year 3 to year 6, from a different school each day. The class was split into four groups of about eight which rotated through four activities.
On board Johanna Lucretia, a topsail schooner, they started on deck with parts of the boat, a competitive treasure hunt and knot tying competition, and to illustrate mechanical advantage, they used different arrangements of blocks to tow Jack, the mate, along the pontoon. In the saloon, Dan, the skipper, drawing on his experience of running a maritime business, told them about sea-related careers and exercised their lungs with some shanty singing.
On the pontoon alongside Pegasus, Jenny, who has sailed in Pegasus as an On Board Ocean Educator (OBOE) talked to them about the Ocean’s importance to life on earth, being the source of over half its oxygen and being home to the vast number of species that form the marine food chain. She showed them the creatures that lived on the pontoon and using plankton nets collected some of the plant-like organisms and animals that drift about in the Ocean, for inspection in the fourth activity. On board Pegasus, John, another OBOE, showed them on a TV, footage of life on the seabed using a baited, remote, under-water video (BRUV), otherwise known as CrabCam. As well as crabs, there were worms, sea snails and fish including a large and inquisitive conger eel. Using a USB microscope connected to a laptop and the TV he also showed them the plankton they had caught. Sadly in nearly every haul, they also saw micro-plastic fibres. The microscope also revealed the filter feeding strategies of many of the creatures that live on the pontoon to eat the plankton.
Did it work?
This what some of the staff and students said:
“My children do not stop talking about it! All the sessions were fantastic!” (Teacher, Mountwise Primary School)
“I never knew about how many jobs there were in the water. I could be a chef, an engineer, a doctor or even a marine biologist. It’s very exciting.” (Student, St Andrews Primary School)
“This is the best day ever!” (Student, Mountwise Primary School)
“The children and staff had a great day and the staff were very knowledgeable about the topics they were teaching. They were also very patient and clear about their expectations and rules. The children had great fun and we would not hesitate to attend the trip again.” (St Georges)
We could not have done this without the generosity of many individuals who responded to our on-line funding appeal and the significant donations we received from Plymouth Yacht Haven and The Dixie Rose Findlay Charitable Trust, for which many thanks.
John Hepburn, 7 December 2023