– Maija Niemisto, Director of Shipboard Education

Clearwater is celebrating the spring with students of all sizes and ages onbaord the sloop. On April 19,  a chipper group of 4th graders from the School at Columbia University joined us on a drizzly but exciting sail from Manhattan.

Suited up in bright yellow raincoats, the students enthusiastically sang along with songs and chants lead by Onboard Education Specialist, Tom O’Dowd. On his first sail of the season, Tom energetically guided the students through activities specifically focused on diversity. Together, students and crew explored how diversity in human society, and in the Hudson River web of life, adds strength and stability to both systems.

Tom explained how Clearwater’s otter trawl net works, and showed everyone the soft inner lining to protect young fish at the cod end of our net. The diversity of aquatic life was readily apparent, as the students hauled up a net peppered with small shrimp and young-of-the-year fish.

As the School at Columbia groups rotated around the boat through our different learning stations lead by Clearwater and Mystic Whaler crewmembers, they went over concepts previously covered in the classroom and were  introduced to brand new skills.

Sailing Apprentice Claire reviewed mechanical advantage and simple machines, topics about which the students were well-versed. They pointed out examples of levers, pulleys and inclined planes found around the boat. Claire showed them the difference between a “block” (pulley) with a mechanical advantage of five to one, verses one reeved with a three to one mechanical advantage.

An explanation of these systems can be complicated, but with a simple tug-of-war game, the difference is immediately apparent. As one student explained, “she is five times stronger with that pulley, that’s why she beat all of us!” Surprised at her own strength, the winner pushed up her sleeves, ready for the next physical challenge.

First Mate Maura Hackett turned the tiller over to a small group of budding sailors who pushed and pulled together on the giant lever to get the hang of maneuvering our 106-foot long boat. Together the students felt a great sense of accomplishment and strength after having made it through the chilly, rainy, windy spring day onboard the Hudson River sloop Clearwater.

We were thrilled to have the School at Columbia students onboard with us, and hope to have them join us again for further inquiry into the diversity of life along the banks and below the surface of the Hudson River waters.